Reforms to enhance public service productivity | Daily News

Reforms to enhance public service productivity

Corruption, waste, idling and duplication - public sector drawbacks says Prime Minister:
Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena at the SLIDA Convocation.
Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena at the SLIDA Convocation.

There is a great concern about the deterioration of public sector productivity leading to a public demand for early steps to improve performances in the Government offices.  

The public service has a major responsibility to contribute directly to the national economy. At the same time it contributes indirectly to the economy by providing employment, raising capital for investment and controlling inflation through their subsidized services. However, with the gradual drop in quality of its services, the public sector organisations currently face unprecedented pressure to improve the quality of public service while adhering to accountability, transparency, and productivity.  

Asian Productivity Organisation (APO) has identified in a study several features that make performance management more difficult in the public sector in Sri Lanka. They include the lack of a predominant profit motive, politics, as well as complicated delivery chains, multiple stakeholders, unclear cause and effect relationships, and attitudes toward accountability and transparency.  

The Asian Productivity Organisation recommended in its analyses that Sri Lanka will have to improve application of new technology for further enhancing effective service delivery. Hence, the authorities will have to draw their special attention on the adaptation of best practices like automation of services in the future. Further, technology transfers from the developed world would be immensely beneficial in this endeavour, while making more efforts on people-friendly service delivery through the application of best managerial practices.  

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told the new batch of public servants to be innovative and fearlessly forge ahead with new experiments for the betterment of our compatriots of our beloved Motherland. Addressing the young graduands who obtained their Master's in Public Management and Diploma in Public Management at the convocation ceremony on SLIDA, said the faculty should be a hub for finding innovative and practical solutions based on global thinking and knowledge of change management to address prevailing problems of organisational structures, behaviours and cultures in the public sector. “It is indeed a great moment to have completed and accrued knowledge while achieving an academic excellence in the arena of Development Administration, certainly one of the most important pillars of our nation’s forward march,” he said.  

In a recent paper, Prof. Chaminda Rathnayake of NSBM Green University has identified many important factors leading to ineffective training and poor performances in the public sector. The Organisational Factors among them included lack of alignment with real organisational purpose, service or business need, assumption the requirement a training but the problem is job performance, lack of specifically targeted process with directions and focus, regarding training as a short-term process, such as an event or a series of events, participants are not held accountable for results, environment for transferring learning to job is not prepared, lack of management support to implement new skills and knowledge and failure to provide final feedback on results to all stakeholders.  

These elements are critically important to changing the approach and direction of the public sector training for ensuring effectiveness and durable improvements to the service delivery of a public-centric governance.  

As Prime Minister Gunawardena pointed out, public servants are highly intelligent, skilled and talented. “Just as much as in any other corner of the world, the books, texts, scripts at this institution would have correctly taught you that in concept the ‘Development Administration’ is a complexity of agencies, management systems, and processes a Government establishes to achieve its development goals. That Development Administration is about projects, programmes, policies, ideas etc. focused on socio-economic or socio-political development of society, carried out by talented and skilled bureaucrats,” he said.  

However, as Prof. Rathnayake said the real problem starts once they join the public service. Even when Government officials go for higher education and training in foreign countries, they successfully complete those programmes. Without talents, commitment, and the ability to initiate, they cannot be successful in achieving their personal goals. But when the Government officials return to Sri Lanka and join the public service, they do not perform in the same way as they did while abroad. The problems related to organisational structures, behaviour and culture of the public sector and not with problems related to their individual talents, capabilities, and capacities.  

Hence, the experts have advocated that the priority of the public sector training should be attached to changing organisational aspects of the public service. Unless it is done quickly, major roadblocks may continue to remain, disrupting and delaying the achievement of desired outcomes in the public service.  

In order to enhance efficiency in public service, the Prime Minister’s Office initiated several training programmes. Last week internationally renowned trainer/coach Nalaka Hewamadduma volunteered to give his services to provide coaching to senior officers of District Secretariats in Colombo district.  

Rationale for the programme was the Prime Minister’s vision of development of human resource, skills, knowledge and attitude of the Government sector, which is critical for speedy implementation of developmental strategies. District Secretariat offices play a critical role in providing services to the people and they are the closest entity to people in the structure.  

During the session, it was stressed that in turbulent and uncertain conditions that exist today key officials need to have resilient leadership to stand up strong and deliver the services to the people. Accordingly, a series of training programmes were conducted focused on resilient leadership.  

Studies reveal that in some departments, many initiatives have been taken on improving overall productivity in recent years. In particular, Departments like Inland Revenue and Immigration and Emigration are the leading public sector partners for the development of the country and have taken every possible effort for efficient service delivery for their clients. While incorporating new technologies, all other best managerial practices were introduced to improve efficiency, giving real ‘value for money.’ The successes of all these efforts were proved through the increase of revenue collection and other services, which was rewarded through productivity awards and other ways.  

At the SLIDA convocation on Wednesday, Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena called upon the young batch of public servants to shoulder a new path to deliver the aspirations of Mother Lanka. Pointing out that the public service has been accused of corruption, waste, idling and duplication of work, he urged the talented and skilled young bureaucrats to focus on socioeconomic development of the Sri Lankan society.  

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