Kaieteur News – The establishment of a Rapid Response Taskforce by President Ali was misconceived. Such units are usually intended to provide immediate action in the event of natural disasters; they are not intended as a means of resolving day-to-day problems.
Short-term and ad hoc arrangements do not provide sustainable solutions. They are therefore ill suited to resolving problems, which members of the public may experience when dealing with the public bureaucracy.
The President’s intentions were honourable. He wants people’s problems to be resolved quickly. However, he went about it the wrong way because he underestimated the scale and gravity of the problems citizens face.
The public service does not work efficiently. The public service is woefully inefficient and unproductive. Instead of providing public service, it provides a disservice to the people.
Very few Ministries and government departments function properly. They are not geared to provide efficient service to the public and a culture has developed where the bureaucrats feel that they are the masters and the people are the servants. This has not changed in 50 years and cannot be changed by any Rapid Response Taskforce.
The frustrations and problems of citizens are overwhelming. They are too many because the system does not work, is not geared to work and there has been little attempt to make it work.
Government after government has hinted at public sector reform but all the reforms have failed to ensure a smaller, more efficient and people-friendlier public service. Even the APNU+AFC failed. They instituted a Commission of Inquiry into the public service, but the issue of operation efficiency and the quality of public services provided were peripheral to the Commission’s report. The COI was a complete waste of time since it did not recommend anything, which would transform the public service.
The Irfaan Ali-administration has appointed a young lawyer as the Minister of Public Service. The public is still waiting with bated breaths for her to outline her reforms, instead of “scholarships, scholarships, scholarships.”
If the problems of citizens are going to be resolved, the public service has to be fixed. It is over-bloated, overstaffed and unproductive. The politicians know this but they refuse to take action because they assume that to do so would be political suicidal.
As such, they employ band-aid solutions such as Ali’s Rapid Response Taskforce, an idea so absurd that no one took it seriously, except, it would appear the person appointed to head it.
The Rapid Response Taskforce was bound to face resistance. The public service is segregated into Ministries and departments with each having their own independent responsibilities. Problems with some of these Ministries or Departments and with the services they provide have to be resolved within that system not through the appointment of some political commissar, who has no statutory authority and therefore cannot compel anyone to do anything.
It matters not that he reports to the President. That is liability rather than an asset because people resent such interference from outside their Ministries or Departments. Worst of all they resent political appointees.
If the services provided by a government are problematic, the bureaucrats want any complaints to be directed to them rather than to someone outside of their organisation.
Political appointees will face resistance because of the nature of the bureaucracy not because of spite. Bureaucracies have an established chain of command. Persons within the system know where decisions are made and things are approved. A political appointee, especially one working outside of the organisation, will not be allowed to intrude on that chain of command.
Second, the bureaucracy is specialised and there is a division of labour. Different persons and different sections do different work. Therefore, solving a problem may involve having to deal with more than one person or department and this makes the task of an outsider more difficult.
Third, there are formal rules or standard operating procedures. Workers have to report to their superiors and these superiors have superiors too, including, at the regional level, the Regional Administration system. You can’t bypass these formal rules and this is what any quick fix may do.
The President therefore made a mistake in setting up a quasi-body to report directly to him and yet to have to address problems of residents. What authority would the head of the Rapid Response Taskforce have in order to request information from a public official? The Head of that Taskforce has no locus standing.
The solution is to fix the public service. Reduce the bloat, re-organise the public service along customer-oriented lines by introducing private sector methods. Dismiss the square pegs and put the right persons in the right positions, including at the Ministerial level.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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