“Smart Governance: Key Principles For A Better Public Sector”

19 December Print

Keynote Address by Professor Stephen Adei (1st Rector & Director-General of the Ghana Institute of Management & Public Administration) Given At the 5th IMANI Inspirational Public Sector Leadership Awards

Introduction
◾Thanks for the invitation
◾I had 35years of Public Service at the national, Commonwealth and United Nation levels before I retired in December 2008
◾There were ups and downs but altogether I had wonderful years of serving as a Public Servant including serving on the governance of both AAPAM and CAPAM.
◾Today to serve my nation on private and NGO boards which gives me another perspective of public service this time as a client and to the one delivering the service as well as insights into the challenges of the private sector.
◾My conclusion is that it is the Public Service rather than the Private Sector which is the engine of growth in the economy its positive performance determine the pace of national development . On the other hand poor performance of Public services is the major constraint on our development. In that regard I include in public service not only the traditional Civil Service and State Institutions but the totality of the national governance structures including the three arms of Government namely The Executive, The Judiciary and The parliament. The focus of my address is on the traditional of public service but let me say a word or two on the wider public office holders first and their impact on development.

The Three Coordinates of National Development

Ladies and gentlemen let me state that the public sector is very strategic for national development. It embraces two of the coordinates of the development triangle and impacts greatly the third name. The three coordinates are National Governance; The State of Public goods and Services and the Private Sector.

Since a significant part of our media is paranoid, always looking for a slight against the Executive, Parliament and Politicians generally and lately the Judiciary; and given that today is a day for recognizing the positive achievement of Public Service institutions I will be extremely circumspect in commenting on the three arms of government, mindful of the threat of Parliamentary Privileges Committee even though I want to say loud and clear that no one has the privilege to be corrupt as a public office holder!

First I want to congratulate the Judicial Council for the surgical way they have responded to Anas’ revelations regarding judicial corruption. I want to challenge Parliament and the Executive to do the same within their institutions because the President and Speaker know that there is corruption in their set up. “The fish rots from the head”!! Also I want to appeal to the Judicial Council to ensure that a system is in place that reduces corruption to the minimum in the future because the Judges are a last resort. We need them to be just.

Second, I want to reiterate that we need all the three pillars of nation building to accelerate development.

The first pillar of governance framework is especially important for the actions and inactions of the three arms of Government and especially the Executive in coming up with a national vision, credible development agenda, mobilizing national resources and using them efficiently, creating enabling atmosphere for the others’ actions, and above all modelling the way-set the tone and pace.

That is why I hold Heads of State and their Ministers responsible for the slow pace of national development and the level of grand corruption in our country.

The literature is clear that the level of corruption for example depends on opportunity on the one hand and the probability of being caught, prosecuted and punished. Once the Executive of every country decides to tackle these variables, even though corruption may be as old as Adam, it reduces to a manageable level and national development is not unduly hampered as it is in Ghana today.

I believe that within one year, if a president wants a relatively transparent and clean country, he can get it though it will take longer to institutionalise the measures to that end. It is a matter of political will. In Ghana it is in the power of the President to separate the Attorney General’s office from the Ministry of Justice and make it autonomous; it is in his power to create an independent anti-corruption agency with prosecuting powers; he can declare his assets publicly and insist that his ministers do the same; we can change the law to allow investigation of any of us having a lifestyle not supported by our income; we can give amnesty for those who give bribe so they can report corrupt officials and not the current situation of criminalizing the giver and the receiver.

And that can be done, not as a legal or constitutional requirement, but as a moral duty. And that should apply to all top level public officials whether they are Chief Directors, MDs of public corporations or Executive Chairmen. The fight against corruption must move to a higher level. Yes we can! Anybody with all the constitutional powers of the President of Ghana cannot say he is doing his level best with the level of perceived corruption today. And let’s be clear, corruption in Ghana is more than a perception.

With all the evidence we have from “Anas-ology”, Auditor General’s Reports, Presidential Commissions and the daily encounter of ordinary Ghanaians, the perception is backed by reality. If we do not do the honourable thing to halt corruption for a better Ghana, we will be judged by posterity adversely.

The importance of Government especially the Executive here lies in the
1.Power of policy
2.Power of modelling
3.Power of the enormous resources they control even in a highly indebted Middle Country – HIMID

That is why even on my death bed I will be saying “leadership is cause; everything else is effect”.

The second pillar, and one which is closely allied to the first, is the institutions responsible for the delivery of public goods. The actions or inactions of them impact greatly the pace of national development. I am talking about the traditional public service viz the civil servants and those who deliver public goods and services (Harbors, VRA, ECG, Roads and Highway, GNPC and what have you). The importance of Public Servants lies not only in advising on policy but in implementing policies and programs. That cannot be overestimated. They are the second pillar of the development triangle. An efficient, clean and principle-based Public Service is indispensable for effective governance and national development. If anyone still wants a proof after three years of “DUMSOR”, for example, and its devastating impact, the one must be from Mars or living on Robinson Crusoe’s Island.

Public services are important in their right as producers of public goods and services. But they also catalyze the third pillar namely Private Sector which I will not comment upon today because of the tyranny of time. Moreover our emphasis today is on the Public Sector.

The State of Ghana’s Public Sector

In that regard I want to state that much of the Public Services of Ghana today leave a lot to be desired be it:
◾delivery of health service
◾delivery of education service
◾delivery of power/energy (and I hear this week will see the end of dumsor)
◾delivery of trade and industry support services
◾and the list goes on

We all experience these services daily. I took a family member to access health care recently. I confidently pulled her NHIS card only to be advised by the lady at the counter “Prof, if you want good and quick service put it back” which I did and paid the GHS 50 consulting fee for love’s sake ha!ha!!

It is in that light that we must celebrate institutions that are making good effort to service the Ghanaian public and to examine how “Smart Governance” principles can help make a better public sector for our common good.

SMART Governance

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the little research I did about SMART Governance places that in the realm of promoting efficiency generally, to increasing transparency, oversight and accountability to ensure that customers receive quality public services and that cost effectively. The OECD countries such as UK, USA, Canada, and Europe are heavy on this drive. At the core of that drive is electronic or e-governance whereby ICT is applied to deliver government services, exchange information transactions and integrate systems and exchanges among government departments, between the government and its employees, among government employees, between government and business houses and especially delivering same as to the wider, the customers, the citizens with the aim of making government services available to clients in a convenient, efficient and transparent manner. That is the essence of SMART Governance.

In those countries, e-governance is facilitating mobile working whereby through the use of ICT people work at different locations including from their home. That allows doing more efficient work from remote locations.

Visiting the internet which is where every smart guy starts in writing a paper or speech I found the following statements which sums up what SMART Governance is all about and I quote,

“It’s about using technology to facilitate and support better planning and decision making, it is improving democratic processes and transforming the way that public services are delivered”.

“SMART Governance is about the future of public services, it’s about greater efficiency, community leadership, mobile working and continuous improvement through innovation”

Weak e-governance was part of the pink sheet debacle at the last elections though I think there was a deliberate agenda to deliver a less credible election outcome. For example not allowing teachers to be electoral officers in favor of people who could hardly do arithmetic compounded things. A major factor in the celebrated Nigerian election was the quality of the temporary staff they used including Vice Chancellors. Our EC can do better.

In India, Australia and other OECD countries SMART Governance principles are leading to highly improved services to citizens from the registry of births to issue of passports; from land registry to scheduled maintenance of public buildings.

One must add that even in these countries SMART Governance encounters administrative, technological, financial, and other challenges. It should therefore no not be seen as a panacea. After all “GIGO” – “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. The competence, integrity, discipline and leadership of public services are poor make SMART Governance SMART.

The application of global SMART Governance Principles i.e. using ICT and innovation to improve transparency, competence, accountability, etc. will no doubt improve our democratic process and efficiency in developing public goods and services. In increasing number of countries, basic services can now be assessed by the citizenry online. It is faster, cheaper and reduces corruption because physical contacts are reduced to the barest minimum.

An important impact of SMART governance worth noting is the sensitivity it brings to the use of public money. The public sector becomes much more aware of the scrutiny that comes with the use of the taxpayers’ money. The general public, through the media and political representatives regularly assess the performance of the institutions vis-à-vis the amount of money allocated to them. It is therefore very common for public officials to resign or be sacked for poor performances or misuse of resources in those countries high on SMART Governance.

Ghana’s public sector is significantly lagging in many respects as regards the principles of ‘SMART governance’. Some ministries and departments can however be seen to be already adopting a good number of these principles. An example of this is the ‘Meet the Press’ series by the various ministries designed to update the public on their activities as well as answer pertinent questions related to their ministry. Beyond this, some institutions have identified social media as an effective tool to breach the gap between their institutions and the public. Hon. Hannah Tetteh, is well noted for her significant presence on twitter where she regularly takes feedback from Ghanaians as well as relay information in real time. This was very useful during the recent unfortunate xenophobic attacks in South Africa. She used her account to inform the public of measures her outfit was taking.

Another commendable feat, as far as transparency and communication are concerned, is the fully functional and informative websites some of the agencies are running. Response to enquiries by email or telephone is much faster and extensive than as pertained before.

These improvements notwithstanding, many areas of smart governance have been stagnant or deteriorating in Ghana’s public sector. One of such areas is accountability. This point is underscored by the many scandals that are exposed by the media but do not gain traction with the political establishment. The difficulty of our sports authorities to effectively account for the use of state finances during the 2014 world cup debacle is one that is symptomatic of poor governance. The Auditor-General’s report is riddled with an avalanche of expenditure that cannot be effectively accounted for by the institutions. In some cases, it’s a case of poor record keeping. But in most cases, it is plain thievery. One of the bedrocks of smart governance is accountability, and this means institutions should be in the position to account for every single cedi of the taxpayer’s money that is spent. The various scandals that have bogged various state institutions are evident of a culture of milking the country dry sometimes through ‘legitimate’ contracts that favor a few individuals or companies at the expense of the country. The furor over the infamous youth employment, telecom related and national service contracts are clear examples.

In the 2015 report by Transparency International, 76% of citizens in Ghana perceived corruption in the public sector to have risen in the last 12 months. In recent times, corruption seems to be uncovered more and more. Is the perception the result that we are doing better in unearthing corrupt deeds? I think on the contrary the corruption in the public domain were so glaring no one could hide them. In September 2015, when Anas uncovered that some judges were taking bribes, it was not because suddenly the state was being proactive in the fight against corruption since we have done very little about Anas’ work in the past. Rather Anas took a step further to appeal to Judicial Council and much of the actions did not involve the Government or the Attorney General’s department whose record in dealing with previous discoveries have been poor. It is the Judicial Service’s actions that brought the offending judges to book.

It’s worth noting that whilst some have come to accept corruption as typical of developing African countries, there are numerous examples on the continent of countries willing to attack this canker head on. One of such examples is in Rwanda, where corruption is highly sanctioned and offenders have their names and their parents’ names put on a national database. The recent developments in Nigeria also hold great promise though it is early to open the champagne.

Given the large size of Ghana’s public sector and the important role it plays in the economy, it is even more imperative for citizens to demand efficient delivery of services and proper utilization of the nation’s resource. The Ibrahim Index of African Governance scored Ghana’s governance as 67.3 out of 100 in 2014, raking it the 7th best in Africa. While this is relatively good, it is a drop of 0.4 in the score for Ghana since 2014, meaning that Ghana’s governance is moving in a less desirable direction. We must take steps in reforming the public sector to reverse the trend. And we must do so in a way in a way it yields positive results and not like the Single Spine structure which has raised more questions than answers.

In 2006, the Single Spine Salary structure was introduced as a measure to address the imbalances in the pay system in the public sector. However, despite measures focused on correcting the salary imbalances it resulted in ballooning of the wage bill with no noticeable productivity and efficiency gains. The government today spends a significant amount on public sector salaries. In 2008, the public sector wage bill was 11.3% of GDP (which accounted for 40% of recurrent budget) much higher than the 6.2% ratio of public service wage bill to GDP in all West African countries. Similarly, in 2013, 60% of national revenue went towards paying the salaries of public servants. We must get value for that level of expenditure and not as it is today whereby productivity enhancement is an afterthought of wage increase.

Challenges to Effective SMART Governance in Ghana

But we cannot ignore the challenges the public sector faces that greatly impinge on its performances. In order for us to apply the principles of SMART Governance in Ghana we must however acknowledge some of the constraint that public sector of Ghana still faces. For example, ICT facilitated innovations are challenged by weak ICT backbone, DUMSOR and lack of political will when it comes to insisting on transparency, accountability and integrity in public life. Sad to say, we also have a culture of mediocrity and lack of commitment to “aban adwuma” – state business.

Inadequate funding is another major problem. Various ministries have seen a fall in their budgetary allocations, affecting the capacity to deliver their work. Another challenge that exists in the public sector is a lack of clear objectives for some institutions, which eventually leads to waste of resources and/or duplication of mandates. This lack of clearly stated benchmarks affect productivity and raises a challenge in evaluating and measuring performance. Sometimes defective managerial competence exists as a result of political patronage especially when appointments are made without recourse to the expertise needed by the organization especially at the governance level. Linked to this imbalance of expertise is the dual problem of overstaffing, especially at the junior level, which leads to a drain on resources and understaffing of quality personnel in senior and professional grades partly caused by brain drain.

Some Broader Measures to Improve the Public Sector in Ghana

Thus SMART governance in Ghana should not be restricted to ICT driven measures but to include broader and more traditional methods of improving public sector efficiency, reduce corruption and increase trust in public services. That will require strong leadership at the highest political level and of the public service institutions themselves as well effective policies, legislation and administrative measure.

A few specific measures which can improve public sector delivery of services in a short time would include the following:
1.Much of the administrative processes are too long and elaborate. For example while it requires 4 steps to clear a good at Walvis Bay in Namibia, it takes 52 steps in Tema, the last time I checked. We can reduce our steps 90% without loss of revenue. On the contrary reduce corruption at the ports of entry.
2.There is practically no time limit for the deliver any service in Ghana from issue of passport to land registration. This must change.
3.Watchdog institutions, are de facto not independent, are under-funded, politicized and except police and BNI, have no prosecuting powers/measures. The trend must be reversed.
4.Complaints of poor service delivery, even corruption are not followed through and culprits punished. Only autonomous, independent and well-funded watchdog agencies will make a difference.
5.When “whom you know” and increasingly which party card you hold and even tribe you belong becomes a factor in accessing pubic services the country is on dangerous track. We must “drop that yam”. Neutrality, independence, efficiency, and transparency are hallmarks of great Public Services.
6.The hustles a manager of a public services leader goes through in undertaking reform in Ghana is hardly worth it. I know that very well. We must support reforming Public Service Leadership and not undercut them.

I think that we need ICT facilitated processes as part of the solution in delivering good public goods and services, but in Ghana the broader, classical view of SMART Governance must be applied to public sector reform:
◾Simplified processes, forms etc.
◾Measurable outcomes which are of course not utopian but
◾Accountable and Realistic and above all
◾Time bound delivery of services.
◾As well as e-governance.

Our innovation must be broader and smarter. Why should all go to work at 8 am? I have found that it takes me 2 hours to get to Accra Central from where I live if I set off between 6.15 am and 8am and only 1 hour if I set off at 8.15am. Can we introduce a simple thing as flexible working hours before we come to mobile work on a wide scale?

We can however leap frog in some areas and there are areas we can go for SMART Governance in the sense of using ICT to facilitate improvements in transparency, competence, accountability and even our checkered democratic processes. This is where the Anglicans have gotten it right- their hymnal is called “Ancient and Modern”. Some of us despite our cemetery flowers manage with Android powered systems from every location but will still make spot checks following Reagan’s dictum- “Trust but verify”.

To further progress, we need to have regular monitoring and evaluation of the performance of all projects and of all public sector departments.

In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen reform of the public sector is important for a number of reasons. Reform leads to improved efficiency and value for money and thus improved service delivery, leadership and professionalism. By aiming for SMART Governance as integral part of public sector reform, we are aiming for transparency, communication, and the adoption of innovative and technologically advanced modes of operation. With these solutions, we can cut down on corruption, bridge the gap between institutions and the public, cut down on excessive bureaucracy, and match wages with productivity.

With these remarks, let me salute the award winners today. These gallant institutions and people have forded erratic power supply, corruption and limited resources to shine in their corner. In wishing you success I pray that you will not rest on your oars but seek continuous innovations to deliver better service to our people. You are the linchpin of a better Ghana.

I thank you all for your attention

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