Ingredients of effective public administration
Good governance is a cumulative effect of the performance of the pillars of state - parliament, judiciary and executive. The executive branch becomes a visible face of the state as people come into contact with the civil servants more frequently than the other two branches.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2013
Pakistan's uneven performance, in the socio-economic sector, in the last 65 years, is mainly attributed to its ineffective administration and unsatisfactory governance. Though various administrative reforms were suggested for the improvement in civil services in the country, none of those were implemented in letter and spirit. Hence the corollaries of not having efficient administration in the country are lack of access to common amenities to the people leading to political instability in the country.
In Pakistan, once again the centrality of administration is back after repeal of the Local Government Ordinance 2001, whereas the concept of centrality in public administration for ensuring social order is fading away world-wide. As reason being, the public sector is no longer a lone service provider to the people. Business and non-governmental organisations are being considered second and third sectors of society along with the public sector as first. The three sectors have different approaches for the service to the society. Businesses serve the society by producing goods and services guided by reciprocal norms, NGOs actualise social vision by moral obligations, and public organisations preserve social order through supervision and rules. In the developed world, states are increasingly opting for public administration as a hybrid of these three approaches and assuming the roles of facilitators instead of administrators. With the emergence of civil society, independent judiciary, dynamic media and a vibrant NGO sector, unitary system of planning and administration is becoming less popular. Now the focus is shifting from controlled administrative mechanism to facilitative effectiveness which is possible by having civil servants who are cognisant of political, economic, social, technological and legal environment of the country. In Pakistan, the government's apparatuses are ill-equipped to meet the challenges, even of routine nature, what to talk about the calamities like earthquakes of 2005 and the deluge of 2010. There is a need to modernise the roles and functions of civil servants by gearing up their sense of moral obligations, business rules and premise of social facilitation.
For transforming public administrators into public facilitators, 'citizens' 'engagement', 'competition within', 'performance on demand', 'network and partnerships', 'learning environment' and 'appropriate compensation' to the civil servants can be basic ingredients. Due to minimal engagement of people in public sector's planning and executions, people remain indifferent to the works undertaken by the government agencies. In the absence of people's involvement, there is a high probability of executives' indulgence in corruption. On the other hand, citizens' engagement results into better project monitoring and project effectiveness. In the developed world, public agencies are becoming more innovative in their attempts to involve citizens both as a result of increased demand for transparency and the legitimacy of the public organisations. For example, community policing, neighbourhood councils and the offices of ombudsmen at the lower tier of state are enhancing the outreach of the government agencies and developing congenial relationship between people and government agencies.
Competition improves performance. As a citizen of a country, all and sundry is equal in the eyes of public law which guarantees the basic human rights for all. However, a civil servant needs to be treated in the light of administrative law; on the basis of equity - "who deserves what?" There is a need to indoctrinate the civil servants that enthusiastic works and efforts are the sources of their pecuniary/non-pecuniary benefits. In this reference, the examples from the corporate and NGOs can be helpful to understand the concept of "competition within".
In the developed world, the public sector is becoming more performance-oriented in recent decades. Public organisations are expected to provide services 24/7 and be able to respond even to non-routine events effectively. Hence their performance is measured on the deliveries instead of files dumped on their desks. In recent years, information technology has been an important tool in transforming government to one that "performance on demand" rather than "performance on directives".
In Pakistan, the idea of network governance is dominated by the top-down bureaucracy, whereas public administration performs well in a network setting across the three sectors. The first decade of the 21st century has dawned with a vibrant civil society, strong media, independent judiciary and dynamic people's networks across Pakistan. Now the government should take advantage of these developments and create an environment where media, judiciary, people's associations become their helping hands by forging formal/informal partnerships. The main beneficiary of such partnerships will be the government itself as developing and maintaining a civilised society is the prime responsibility of any government.
Learning environment means learning opportunities beyond formal trainings. For example, liberty to work innovatively, rooms for learning from their mistakes, and having accesses to the practices of civil servants from across the world will be learning support for them. In Pakistan, the learning environment is being taken separate from the work environment as all the secretariats in the country are devoid of updated physical/virtual libraries. The civil servants rely on learning from the files and from their seniors' instructions they get. As a result, the legacy of limited personalised examples prevails. Hence, there is a need to extend the existing civil servants' learning facilities to their work places.
Money is a big motivator. The area of compensation in civil services seeks attention of the government. Especially, grade 1 to 15 staff members deserve immediate relief package as there is no match of their compensations with the soaring living cost in the country. Researchers have found a strong relationship between corruption and low wages in the developing countries. Appropriate compensation will be a de-motivator against their indulgence in corrupt practices and it will boost the morale of civil servants as they are properly earned persons while serving the public institutions. Max Weber's theory of bureaucracy has huge potential for ensuring services to the people, transparency in its operation and promoting social order provided it is contextualized with the ground realities of the land where it is being implemented.
(The writer is a Professor at Faculty of Management Sciences SZABIST, Karachi)