By Amin Kef Sesay
The Civil Service refers to the body of officials who carry out functions of Government under the direction and supervision of the head of Government. Employees of state-owned enterprises, the army, teachers, the judiciary and the police together with civil servants, collectively constitute the public sector.
As such, the effectiveness of the civil/public service is a function of good governance that is central to not only proper service delivery but the overall governance mandate of engendering national development. If that branch of the Government is weak and self-serving, it tells a lot on the quality of service delivery and national development.
Thus, any reform to promote proper service delivery through good governance should begin by addressing, first and foremost, the institutional roots of the problems faced by the public sector.
Civil Service arrangements are the most important mediating institutions which interface between the state and its citizens. Traditionally these were monolithic, centralized, powerful structures with immense power over the management of the affairs of a nation and often not very responsive to the changing needs of governance and public management.
However, in recent times many Governments have realized the importance of greater efficiency (both economic and functional) in the delivery of services to their citizens. Thus Governments in different parts of the world have initiated large-scale reform in their civil services to achieve greater efficiency, effectiveness and responsiveness.
In practice good governance involves promoting the rule of law, tolerance of minority and opposition groups, transparent political processes, an independent judiciary, an impartial police force, a military that is strictly subject to civilian control, and a free press and vibrant civil society institutions, as well as meaningful elections. Above all, good governance means respect for human rights.
Good state governance is particularly relevant to our society, where the Government is the major constitutive element of the governance process. It underlines the important role of the State/Government in providing the regulatory environment and institutional underpinning to facilitate efficient market exchange.
State governance which cuts across all modes of governance and is central to the effectiveness of the entire system of governance as it is supposed to take place through the interplay of a host of institutional arrangements and policy strategies that the State puts in place.
For example, without courts to interpret and enforce agreements, commercial life would become chaotic; without laws to define, and police and courts to enforce them, property rights would be non-existent.
Lack of transparency in governance often leads to wrong political, social and economic decisions many of which affect Civil Service Reforms.
Having defined governance and the modes by which it may be executed, the next challenging task is to address the issue of what constitutes ‘good governance’.
In line with the definitions of governance above, ‘good governance’ materializes if the State is able, through the power and authority vested in it, to allocate the nation’s resources and coordinate economic activities in an optimal manner. The notion of optimality connotes efficiency and effectiveness.
It means that governance is conducted within the framework of effective rules and policies that underpin social harmony and sound development.
In the context of State governance, good governance implies the capacity to formulate and implement sound economic policies, to institute effective legal institutions, to ensure public oversight and participation of civil society, and to have in place a credible civil service that provides citizens with an acceptable level of public services in an effective and efficient manner. These constituents of good governance must, however, be gauged against certain predetermined criteria.
Good governance is widely identified with the following attributes: transparency, accountability, efficiency and fairness. These are the ground rules of governance, which must be used to assess governance outcomes.
Therefore, good governance does not only mean that the State operates effective policies and laws, but it also means, and more importantly, that it executes those policies and laws of the State in a transparent, accountable, predictable, efficient and fair manner.