Effective service delivery: Performance to outcome
The positions in almost one-third of VDCs are vacant. In the federal Nepal where the three tiers of the government - federal, provincial and local - are constitutionally provided, there is a need to reorganize and restructure civil bureaucracy
At a program organized the other day, political party leaders and governance experts pointed out the critical role of civil servants to serve the people and reach services out to the people in an effective and well orchestrated manner. They emphasized that unless the national bureaucracy is made responsible and efficient, it is very difficult to achieve progress in fulfilling the aspirations of the people.
The policies and programs of the government can be implemented effectively only when the capacity of bureaucracy is enhanced and the apparatus is kept well prepared to serve the people. Similarly not only the incumbent and serving bureaucrats but also the retired civil servants have an important role in nurturing and oiling the bureaucracy to delivering services to the people.
At a time when the country is transforming from a unitary state to a federation the retired civil servants can assist and share their experiences about how to cope with the administrative challenges presented by the new political situation unfolding in the country.
However, the current government machinery is indifferent and not awakened to face the challenges posed by the emerging situation in the country. Though the governments of the day tend to express their commitment to provide services at the doorstep of the people, there have been the cases of the increased corruption and abuse of power attributed to different civil service ranks to undermine the basic bureaucratic values and norms. In terms of number, though the size of bureaucracy has grown bigger and its reach expanded to the nook and corner of the country, it is lacking in gaining effectiveness to deliver services and satisfy the needs and aspiration of the people.
The civil bureaucracy is said to be swallowing the bigger chunk of the national revenue but it has failed miserably to perform consistent to the expectations and preferences of the people. As reports of the administrative restructuring commission formed by the government time and again indicate that the bureaucracy in Nepal is politicized and fragmented guided and motivated as it is in line with the political factions and groups operating in the country. It is often seen that the bureaucrats follow signals of partisan politics in contravention of the norms of neutrality and nonpartisanship.
Since the effective implementation of the government policy and program is dependent upon the competence and character of the civil bureaucracy, there is a need to restructure bureaucracy to make it a citizen responsive and accountable organization. It is more needed at a time when the federal reorganization of state demands an enhanced robustness in the delivery of the services.
Needless to say, public trust in governments gets enhanced only when bureaucratic institutions deliver services consistent to preference of the citizens. It is often observed that the poor and inequitable allocation of resources and services lie at the root of alienation of the people from the government. This also becomes the major cause of the conflicts. In order to make bureaucracy work efficiently and effectively many governments both in the developed and developing countries have restructured their bureaucratic organizations to deal with the growing disenchantment of the citizens. Of the reform efforts of the bureaucracy, introducing result based management at different levels has been implemented.
However, there are certain challenges for implementation of the performance based outcomes. Many developed countries where this is introduced designing appropriate processes for selecting outcome measures has been felt as a challenge.
Even more difficult will be the process for collecting the credible data from different levels and tiers of the government. In fact, a related danger is the politicization of the statistical agencies to manipulate and fabricate the data. It is also difficult to make a causal linkage between government activities and social indicators where the system of data production and management is weak and poor.
Though performance based management of the bureaucracy is very crucial to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of the services, prudence and caution need to be exercised.
The outcome and their indicators selection should be left to the independent or semi-independent organizations so that benchmarks of the societal wellbeing were formulated in a very rational way.
Bureaucracy in Nepal has so far been very centralized with a bloated size. It is heavy at the top and lean and thin at the bottom from whence task of service delivery needs to be carried out.
For example, at the village level civil public servants to deliver services are found lacking. The VDC secretaries play truant as they are more inclined and motivated to stay at the DDC office at the district where their bureaucratic masters occupy the role.
Moreover, the positions in almost one-third of VDCs are vacant. In the federal Nepal where the three tiers of the government - federal, provincial and local - are constitutionally provided, there is a need to reorganize and restructure civil bureaucracy for the purpose of ensuring good governance and effective service delivery.
The author is a former member of Administrative Restructuring Commission