NEWS

Best Man To Drive Reforms

Public service reforms will be central to the Government’s performance in the next four years. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum is the best person in Cabinet to drive them. From Attorney-General and other
26 Sep 2014 09:58
Best Man To Drive Reforms

Public service reforms will be central to the Government’s performance in the next four years.

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum is the best person in Cabinet to drive them. From Attorney-General and other multiple responsibilities to FijiFirst general secretary Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has proved that he can take on any task and deliver. He is known to have worked many long hours to get things done and is very meticulous.

Reforming the civil service is not going to be easy. The goal is to produce a lean and efficient civil service. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has specially chosen Mr Sayed-Khaiyum because of his experience and performance record in the past eight years. Cost is an integral part of any reform. That’s why he is also the Minister of Finance to ensure that reforms are not frustrated by cost. And make no mistake cost will dictate the shape of the reforms.

Government is the country’s biggest employer. The civil service wage bill takes a big chunk of the Government budget and worries political leaders from time to  time. Every time the issue comes up leaders have to contend with the public sector trade unions. The impending reforms will be subjected to similar scrutiny by the trade unions and the Opposition in Parliament.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has said that the review will cover the requirements of the various ministries and departments with a view to bringing all aspects of the service into the 21st century. He has also said Government will engage accredited international agencies and specialists to review and assess the performance of the civil service.

Because of its contentious nature, the review will need the political will to take it to its logical conclusion. A plus on the Government side is that modernising the civil service is in keeping with the global trend in modern democracies.

Closer to home, neighbours New Zealand and Australia have undergone similar public service reforms. In New Zealand they went through restructuring and redundancies.

During the FijiFirst campaign, they received complaints from people about Government bureaucracy. Government will address these issues in the review to see if the service provided justifies the salaries the civil servants are being paid.

Researchers Akash Paun and Josh Harris of the London’s The Institute for Government, UK’s leading independent charity and think tank promoting more effective government, studied the NZ and Australian models.

They find that in NZ, a key part of the system of civil service accountability and capability improvement, is the State Services Commission (SSC).

The SSC – along with the Treasury and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) – make up the corporate centre of the New Zealand public service.

The importance of a strong corporate centre is widely recognised in New Zealand to maintain the neutrality of the civil service.

Australia’s corporate centre is more closely integrated with the political leadership of government. The most powerful player is the secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C1), who works closely with the prime minister (PM) and helps to ensure that the rest of the public service respond to the PM’s wishes.

In Fiji, it appears we have a bit of both. Mr Bainimarama likes to lead from the front and wants the civil service help him deliver his election promises.

On the question of accountability, our new Cabinet ministers have been told that they need to perform or they get dropped. Over the past eight years, decentralisation has given each ministry the corporate responsibility to manage its own budget allocation. Permanent secretaries are accountable to the Public Service Commission and of course their line ministers too.

The review will also touch on accountability.

Who would be held responsible for serious ministry or department failures? Would it be the minister or the permanent secretary?

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 



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