The reward for most public servants has been discouragingly low and this should be addressed before this great idea of rationalisation can take off
By Dr. Kenneth Ssemwogerere
The social media has been of recent awash with the Press statement containing the Cabinet decisions taken during a meeting on Monday, September 10, 2018 at which there was approval of the recommendations to implement the rationalisation of Agencies, Commissions and Authorities. It revealed agencies to be merged while others have their functions mainstreamed back to the sector ministries. On further research to authenticate this information, a 226 paged document was found on the net entitled ‘A final report on comprehensive review and restructuring of government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs)' which was prepared in March, 2017 by the Directorate of Management Services in the Ministry of Public Service. It is quite a good read for those who would like to internalise this matter well.
The press statement highlights five objectives of the rationalisation which included: Alignment to the national strategic goals and priorities for efficiency in the provision of public service; Elimination of functional ambiguities among Government institutions; Elimination of wasteful expenditures; harmonisation of the wages between employees of agencies and the traditional public service; Streamlining the legal and institutional frameworks to ensure more accountability to the citizens and mainstream Government ministries.
When one reads the above objectives, the intentions are very noble and for us who have spent some time now in the PPP space are akin to the objectives of any Public Private Partnership (PPP) project. This is the gist of this submission for your possible consideration Mr President in order to achieve the main objective of this exercise which is delivery of public services to the people in the most efficient and effective manner.
In PPPs, the private party (PP) performs the function of the contracting authority for a specified period of time. This inbuilt requirement of the specified period of time keeps the PP in an engaged mode all the time. There is nothing like permanent and pensionable. In the same way every employee for the PP either delivers on their tasks or is done away with. This is a common practice with all successful private firms - people must deliver or lose their jobs. There are key performance indicators (KPIs) that are embedded in the PPP agreements, which carry penalties whenever the PP does not deliver. These KPIs are SMART and monitored by the public sector. As such, if the Government wants to attain the goal of deliver of a service to the Ugandans, there is no option, but having the ‘new' public servant have set KPIs against which they will be evaluated per month and this shall carry a penalty on their monthly payment. This notion of receiving your salary 100% should no longer be the case. That is how PPPs all over the world have been able to deliver great service to the populace.
The objective of Alignment to the National strategic goals and priorities for efficiency in the provision of public service is very welcome Your Excellency, and comes at a time when most Ugandans have given up on some public services. Public services are a whole range and their provision takes various forms some of which are more complex than others and, therefore, to measure efficiency in their provision is quite a task. Given this predicament, one of the critical factors that enables employees be efficient is their level of creativity in performing their assigned duties. And for one to be creative, they must have interest in their jobs and sometimes passion in what they do. The reward expected and the working atmosphere are vital.
The reward for most public servants has been discouragingly low and this should be addressed before this great idea of rationalisation can take off and achieve its objectives. The Government is the biggest employer and that why it has lots of employees. However, there has been a lot of duplications and overlaps among Government institutions. In a PPP, because the PP wants to make more profits, they cannot afford to have the same role executed by more than one person. If actually they had their way they would use half a person. As such, this move, Your Excellency, gives an opportunity to evaluate how many persons are needed to execute which tasks in which MDA. Those that remain shall then be rewarded attractively and competitively, but then demand clear deliverables from them. There must be an intentional move to get the right mind-set of service. The level of creativity of a well-paid public servant must also be considered very well.
The other issue that demands critical attention is the atmosphere in which the public servant works. It should be conducive. The PP knows this very well. This calls for serious consideration of the government officials' office space. We could explore in the long term having a PPP for Government office accommodation.
The Government needs to identify what exactly must be done to deliver an efficient service to Ugandans. In PPPs we actually don't define inputs we just defined the required deliverables and leave the PP to be creative enough to decide how best this service must be delivered. For instance, that the minimum waiting time for any patient shall not be more than 10minutes from arrival at the hospital facility before they are attended to. It is the PP obligation to think how best to get this attained. Only well motivated persons will think on how best to deliver their services to the people of Uganda.
There is the issue of accountability to the citizens and mainstream Government ministries. Accountability for every public servant should be to the citizen served. A strategy should be developed where the ordinary man comes to understand who exactly is not doing his/her work that is leading to this inefficient delivery of the public service. Recall this ‘new' public servant is now going to be well paid and as such the bar for accountability must be risen higher than never before. We must design systems that move the accountability to the masses to all public servants. This can be done while also protecting the interests of the Government which I think as per your desire Mr President, are majorly provision of services to the people of Uganda in the most efficient manner. I beg to submit Your Excellency for your consideration.
Writer is an architect & PPP specialist, coordinator PPP executive short courses at CEDAT, Makerere University.