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Dismal failure - CaPRI Report lashes efforts to reform public sector, calls for changes to programme

Published:Monday | July 27, 2015 | 1:30 PM

A report entitled Reforming Public Sector Reform has noted that Jamaica's efforts at public-sector reform have been a failure. This, it says, is due to deep-rooted problems in the public sector.

The report put out by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) has called for changes to the implementation of the Public Sector Master Rationalisation Plan.

According to the report, the impediments to successful reform includes Government's failure to clearly define its role, over-centralised decision making which creates implementation bottlenecks, lack of cooperation among public-sector employees and lack of political will to make difficult decisions that may adversely affect its political support.

Pointing out that reform initiatives have been undertaken since the 1970s, CaPRI's report provided a critique of these various initiatives.

Of the Administrative Reform Pro-gramme, which lasted from 1984-1995, the CaPRI report said, "there was inadequate collaboration between consultants and members of the different government ministries and departments, and, as such, upon termination of consultants' contracts there was no continuity".

The Public Sector Modernisation Programme of 1996-2002 came in for criticisms on the grounds that, "customer service delivery has not increased significantly to merit the cost of the programmes ... the public-sector wage bill has continued to increase ... and devolution of authority has not been maintained, as power is still centralised in the Cabinet Office."

The current reform programme under The Public Sector Master Rationalisation Plan which was devised in 2011 has been projected to save $49.7 billion over five years. This, the report says, can only be achieved if ministries and agencies fully adopt the recommendations outlined in the plan.

According to the report, master rationalisation plans should be decentralised.

"The manager for each public department should design a rationalisation plan for their own department that achieves the goal of the master plan," the report said.

The report also called for job security to be linked to performance.

"Heads of department or chief executives should be placed on contracts as opposed to tenure and, thereafter, given relative autonomy ... staff will be held accountable based on performance standards because the executive will lose his or her contracts if their department underperforms," the report added.

increase accountability

The University of the West Indies-based think tank has recommended that the Executive Agency Model should be used to increase accountability in government agencies and departments.

Another key issue addressed in the report is the need to strengthen political will.

"... the lack of political courage to execute reform was a recurring theme in all initiatives. Any major reform of the civil service requires support of the political leadership. While the work has been done and the reform papers compiled and presented to Cabinet, the political directorate has lacked the commitment to overhaul the public sector," the report said.