Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Government clueless! - More than $1 billion spent training workers but no system in place to assess benefit

Published:Wednesday | March 8, 2017 | 3:00 AMJovan Johnson
Jones

The Government has spent more than $1 billion over the past seven years on training and development for 1,453 civil servants, but exactly how Jamaica has benefited is not known.

That's because, according to Wayne Jones, deputy financial secretary in the finance ministry with responsibility for human resource, there's no system now in place to assess the value the additional training brings to the public sector.

"I can't say that we have a system in place. We're not as sophisticated in that process as we would like to be. [But] it becomes even more necessary when you have dwindling resources," he told The Gleaner. "I'm sure that even anecdotally, we can say to you that when people come back from training, we do see improvements in their contributions."

So far, he said the performance management and appraisal system used by government bodies is the closest thing to an assessment tool.

The other critical issue is the areas approved for civil servants to get advanced training in. Those data were not immediately available, and that would help to explain the billion-dollar expenditure revealed through an Access to Information request. The ministry said that information would have to be drawn from the individual files of the workers.

Jones also explained that some of the $1.4 billion came from donors with specific requirements. The total amount from taxpayers over the period 2010-2016 was also not immediately available.

 

Training critical to public-sector reform

 

Professor Densil Williams, pro vice-chancellor, planning at the University of the West Indies, said it was difficult to measure performance in the public sector, unlike in the private sector, where targets are more exact.

"It is not an easy thing to actually identify in a tangible way the exact benefit that you have got from increased training," he said. "What you will see is that over time, the employee becomes much better at what he or she is doing. There should be greater efficiency that you're seeing from the employee's performance. There should be greater productivity. You in the organisation have to find ways and means of measuring those things."

According to Williams, "The beauty about training is that it gives you a different perspective about how you should be doing things. When you send someone on training and they come back to your organisation, the question you ask yourself is, 'Have they been doing things in a different way, that has improved the performance of their portfolio?'"

Efficiency has been one of the buzzwords used by governments over the years to explain why reforms are necessary. Local think tank, Caribbean Research Policy Institute, in a 2015 study noted that governments have, however, failed to match their words with actions.

That may change in the latest attempt through the current programme with the International Monetary Fund. Danny Roberts, who co-chairs a body overseeing public-sector reforms, said issues such as training of civil workers and assessing the impact were critical to the reform agenda.

"We have to make sure that we have in place the mechanisms that can assess. That is a process we have to commit ourselves to, so that we're able to do a kind of tracer study on the impact of the training on employment, productivity and the growth strategy," Roberts said.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com