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A look at Public Sector Reform in Jamaica

Public Sector Reform in Jamaica
BY: IAN BOYNE

KINGSTON (JIS):
Thursday, December 03, 2009


Successive Jamaican Governments have recognised the critical
need for pubic sector reform and have initiated programmes with that objective,
beginning with the Administrative Reform Programme in 1984.

The most successful of these efforts has been the Public
Sector Modernisation Programme (PSMP), which began in 1996 as a World
Bank-funded programme, initially lasting six years. The programme was funded at
a cost of US$28 million. Between 2003 and 2008, a PSMP 2 programme was implemented,
with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA),
Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) and the
Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Since 2002, public sector modernisation has been
institutionalised and now forms part of a comprehensive strategic approach to
strengthening the public sector and making it more responsive to 21st Century
needs. According to the Revised Medium-Term Action Plan 2008-2012, "the
central and overarching focus of the revised action plan for the next five
years will be to provide quality service to the citizens of Jamaica."

To achieve this, four strategic goals have been identified.
These are: enhancing service delivery; improving governance and accountability;
managing for results; and improving change management and communication.
Unknown to many Jamaicans has been the fact that an intense, thorough and
far-reaching culture change programme has been taking place in the public
sector, with particular emphasis being placed on customer-focused,
client-centred service delivery. A comprehensive Customer Service Monitoring
and Evaluation Framework and Guidelines for Public Sector Entities has been
developed and is being executed.

This programme is being rolled out across a number of
Government ministries, departments and agencies. During the last financial
year, activities under the modernisation programme included simplifying
business process, introducing or boosting mechanisms to monitor and evaluate
customer service and the strengthening of the public sector's capacity to
deliver high-quality services.

The state has been sensitive to public concerns about the
level of efficiency, responsiveness and customer service in the public sector
and has been concentrating its attention on remedying the situation. There is
now a Public Sector Customer Service Competition, which aims to incentivise
good customer service and to heighten the awareness of its importance among
public sector managers and employees.

The fourth staging of the biennial competition was held this
year with the National Land Agency copping the top award. Also, new categories
were included in the competition this year - Best Health Centre and Best Parish
Council Office. A draft National Customer Service Policy was completed during the
last financial year, with guidelines for all public sector entities.

A wide cross-section of entities have been involved in
customer service training and sensitisation, with a "mystery shopper"
feature being introduced where entities are assessed by various "mystery
shoppers" to determine whether they have been adhering to the customer
service standards to which they have committed themselves.

"The customer service focus has really been strong and
all-pervasive," says Ms. Marjorie Johnson, Acting Chief Technical Director
of the Public Sector Modernisation Division. "It is being achieved quietly
and significant changes are taking place in both attitudes and customer service
delivery in the public sector," she assures.

"The fundamental thrust of the medium-term programme
for modernisation centres on this whole matter of customer service delivery. We
have already introduced an 800-number service for the public to register
complaints about customer service. We are developing and strengthening the
mechanisms to facilitate members of the public actually influencing policy
concerning customer service and improved efficiencies," the PSMP head
informs JIS News.

Nearly 70 per cent of public sector entities are now on the
National Customer Service programme. The number of entities with citizens'
charters guaranteeing certain service standards grew from 108 to 121 in the
last financial year. A data-sharing and transfer pricing policy has been
developed to improve the ability of the public sector to deliver quality and timely
service, through the sharing of data among Government entities.

A far-reaching programme to reduce the time it takes to do
business with Government has been facilitated under the Public Sector
Modernisation Programme. As an example, in June this year Prime Minister, the
Hon. Bruce Golding opened the Jamaica Import/Export Inspection Centre, which
provides a central location from which regulatory agencies operate, offering a
co-ordinated and efficient process for the inspection of imported goods. Importers
and exporters no longer have to make multiple trips to regulatory agencies and
experience delays in processing.

The centre operates as a one-stop shop for regulatory
agencies dealing with the responsibility for human safety, animal health and
plant health. As the Prime Minister said at the opening, the centre
"stands as a testament to Government's commitment to facilitating the
smooth flow of business and to simulate investment by retracting the
bureaucratic red tape and rolling out the red carpet."

"The opening of this centre indicates where Government
is going in terms of facilitating businesses and making it easier for citizens
to do business with Government. We intend to create a number of one-stop shops
across the public sector, creating a more pleasant, efficient and
cost-effective means for citizens to interact with their Government," Mrs.
Johnson tells JIS News.

In addition to the creation of executive agencies under the
PSMP, now numbering 10, a number of modernisation plans have been implemented
in Government entities.

"Some people do not realise that it's not just that
Government has created executive agencies, which operate at a very high level
of efficiency and accountability, but that Government has been mainstreaming
best practices and peak performance in the wider public sector. The plan is to
standardise the high-efficiency levels for which the executive agencies have
been known," says Mrs. Johnson.

During the last financial year, modernisation plans have
been implemented in five entities - the Ministry of National Security, the
Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Justice, the Forestry Department and the
Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Before that, modernisation plans had been implemented for
Jampro, Customs, the Ministry of Transport and Works and the Tax Administration
Department. Closely aligned to the strong and decisive emphasis on improving
customer service in the public sector is the concept of Managing for Results.
According to the Medium-Term Action Plan 2008-2012, the concept relates to
efficiency enhancement and probity in the utilisation of financial and human
resources.

Managing For Results, according to this document, involves
"the adoption of modern financial, audit, planning and monitoring systems;
greater decentralisation of management decision-making; improving human
resource management and performance-enhancing management systems targeting
efficiency savings, as well as improving value for money."

It is clear that even ahead of the work of the recently
established Public Sector Transformation Unit, Government's modernisation and
reform efforts have already achieved tangible results.