An efficient public sector mechanism for Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

An efficient public sector mechanism for Sri Lanka

31 May, 2020

An efficient, responsive, accountable and transparent governance is expected by every citizen in any country for their well being. In order to establish such governance, effective policies, strong laws, efficient monitoring mechanisms and active participation of the public are primary requirements. This also requires capacity building of personnel who are engaged in delivery of services.

A dire need of an efficient governance mechanism has become more important than ever before, at this crucial time where the country is gearing up to recover from the drastic setbacks created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only the management of the allocations of public resources but also reformulating more efficient and friendly rules, regulations and laws must be carried out to assist the general public, the business fraternity and local and foreign investors to help recover the national economic growth.

The quality of public service delivery affects the economic growth of a country through its impact on human capital.

The general opinion of the country is that the service delivery is largely unsatisfactory in the vast majority of the Government and semi Government institutions. Commencing from the lack of effective institutional leadership, the list goes on to corruption, negligence, lethargy, inadequate training, procrastination and so forth.

Having said the above as a known fact, prior to bringing forth criticisms, it is justifiable to express great admiration for the conduct of the entire public service from the inception of the Covid-19 episode.

The entire nation conveys its gratitude for the unconditional commitment they provided despite the obvious dangers to their own lives and their families.

Not only the health service, the tri-forces and the police and public health authorities, but the majority of others in the rest of the public service was engaged to successfully control the pandemic situation.

Efficient governance

In chapter two of his election manifesto, ‘Vistas for prosperity and splendour’, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa pledges ‘an efficient governance mechanism’. He touches every sphere and every stakeholder from the ministries onward, covering almost the entire public service. For the first time in recent history, a large number of criteria that were pledged in the document were achieved during the period in which the country battled against the coronavirus calamity.

The Government managed to successfully assemble every person and every required resource to achieve a common goal. This act clearly took place due to the strong, intelligent and fearless leadership of the President. During the whole process since the emergence of the first Covid-19 patient rarely anything went wrong.

The infamous and notorious public sector inefficiency transpires largely due to the cumulative cost of alleged corruption, lack of internal or interdepartmental competition, poor monitoring and lack of transparency in all levels of appointments, among other reasons. Based on the criteria of the vision of the President, the new Government is making an effort to tackle these strategic issues head on. It was clear that President Rajapaksa’s key appointments were based on efficiency and past achievements, both in important Government institutions as well as in state owned enterprises.

In this light, a country that has witnessed petty, insecure and grossly inefficient leaders in the past government is clearly looking forward to a strong leader who cannot be politically motivated to guide the state machinery.

It is clear that the nation is hungry for a statesman rather than a mere politician. As mentioned earlier in this article, the present leader displayed every quality of an effective leader by gathering the entire public service to face the challenge.

The public service has continually expanded during the past several regimes to an enormous size. It was a practice of politicians to promise Government jobs whenever there is an election and resort to any means to fulfil such promise irrespective of the long term damage it causes. A more alarming act of these politicians is to fill positions, with totally unsuitable people to the specified job. A vast majority of these political appointees are not qualified, experienced or skilled for the job offered.

However, as a visible change, the President requested politicians to try to generate employment to their voters rather than filling Government vacancies haphazardly.

The community has witnessed appointing graduates as junior health workers, uneducated henchmen to senior positions, unsuitable business people as Directors and the list goes on.

leadership qualities

It’s a pleasure to observe such practices openly criticised by President Rajapaksa soon after taking over office. His message was clear to all politicians that Government appointments should be made through the Presidential Secretariat. Initially, the public had doubts but now it is evident that this totally illegal, dishonest and immoral practice has reduced to a great extent.

The President made an all important decision to appoint heads of state institutions and state owned enterprises based on leadership qualities, subject matter knowledge, competency, experience and the track record of the appointees. All these appointments were made for a specified period and the appointees were tasked to show results. This is one of the most important post independence decisions by any leader in Sri Lanka.

The process has started but the result is yet to be seen.

The effort initially showed great promise and the appointments seemed reasonable and justifiable, except for a very few. However, to the public eye, it seemed neglected in a few short months due to reasons unknown. The government must monitor this action as soon as the pandemic threat is over and implement it in full as this would assist the entire country to attain a different level.

Despite the recent and sudden efficiency shown by public servants on the Covid-19 pandemic, government bureaucracy in Sri Lanka has not escaped public criticism.

Although the media and some other civil society groups along with political opposition highlighted various incidents and scandals, a growing concern of the poor performance and lack of responsibility still prevails.

Obviously, the new Government has planned to introduce numerous reforms in the public service and institutional mechanisms through the manifesto to upgrade efficiency and effectiveness. Regrettably, however, the planned act was hampered to a great extent by the unexpected virus attack which compelled to give it low priority. However, the expectation of the entire nation is to restart the process of the pledged efficient government machinery.

Public sector

It is understood that the public sector plays a major role in society by managing public funds as well as delivering state services to the general public. In order to fulfil its wide range of functions, the public servant must satisfy a complex series of political, economic, social and environmental endeavours.

The recently displayed efficiency of Sri Lankan public servants is a clear indication that if motivated with a quality overall leadership, they can produce tremendous results.

An effective public service can improve the management of public functions. It will also lead to a more effective execution of the assigned involvements and better service quality and delivery and finally a better outcome.