Poor State Governance & Poor Service Delivery… A Weak Self-Serving Public Service Is The Cause

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Julius Maada Bio

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.

 

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