Partnership key to better public service delivery


23-June-2009

And all public sector workers are asked to come together in unity to build on our achievements and continue transforming the public sector for more efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

This appeal comes from the Department of Public Administration, which has contributed the following article to explain public service in Seychelles:

Background

Our colonial legacy with regard to public service is bureaucratic and highly centralised where government is the main, and in certain areas the sole, provider of services.

Constitutionally, despite a major policy leaning towards public/private partnerships, the government controls all government institutions through the executive (cabinet).

Administratively, core government departments provide the budget allocation and the terms and conditions of service.

National House, the seat of public administration 

Government, in undertaking public administrative and public sector reforms, brought to light the inadequacy of present public administration practices and procedures, especially in light of the present global financial and economic crisis, from which Seychelles has not been spared.
 
The extensive provision of public services, either through direct delivery or subsidisation, is one of the causes of the high level of indebtedness of the Seychellois economy, and this has caused the government to embark on macro-economic reforms among which is the transition from a state-driven economy to a market-based economy.

One of the solutions of the structural adjustment programmes being implemented through public administration and public sector reforms focuses on government’s strategic shift – from implementer to facilitator.

This policy prescription has opened the door for private sector-led economic growth.

Launching the transformation

Since 2007, the government has placed a lot of emphasis on the need for flexibility and adaptability to manage and adapt to change while continuously developing public service structures to achieve greater efficiency and more responsive services.

This restructuring of government is seen as an essential component of sound governance, and this move is led by government’s commitment towards new possibilities: reviewing the role of government to limit it to core functions, reducing the size of government in favour of the private sector, and improving service delivery.

One of the most important aspects of the public service reform is the public/private partnership, which adds to productivity-driven economic growth. With the launch of Strategy 2017, government provided a template for sustained growth through its strategic positioning as an arranger.

With the planned retrenchment of government in production areas, policies to encourage the expansion of the private sector are being reviewed.

Wealth creation, which will benefit the whole population, is at the heart of this approach, stressing the empowerment of economic partners in productive sectors of the economy. Continuing with its programme of withdrawing from active service provision, government is putting into practice the separation of policy from implementation and will continue to seek alternatives to direct service delivery. 

The shifting boundaries of government

The Seychelles government already has a history of employing government companies as instruments of state action to execute public functions.

It is through these state enterprises that government has provided, and continues to provide, a wide range of services:  it runs the country’s only petroleum company (Sepec), airline (Air Seychelles) and public transport (SPTC), the first state enterprise to be created in 1977.

It operates in the banking sector (DBS, SSB, Simbic, HFC), and provides housing (HFC). It sees to electricity generation and treated water distribution (PUC), and provides for television and radio broadcasting (SBC).
These state enterprises also see to the operation of the airport (SCAA) and seaport (SPA), market the country overseas (STB), negotiate with foreign and local investors (Siba, SIB) and with regard food commodities undertakes international and domestic trading activities (STC).
 
In the form of a public body it helps small businesses (Senpa), fishermen (SFA) and farmers (SAA). This help is also extended to artists (NAC) and sports professionals (NSC).

State bodies also provide regulatory, licensing, supervisory and inspection functions (SLA, SQA, SBS, NTB); they ensure the development of the outer islands (IDC) and manage waste disposal, landscaping (LWMA) and the sustainable management of both the marine and terrestrial parks (NPA).

In the name of public enterprises, we educate on a national scale (SIM) and for the tourism sector (STA); and our students, where possible, are provided with scholarships (NHRDC). Under government-owned organisations we collect, maintain and manage national data (NSB) as well as that specific to our cultural heritage (SHF). For the wellbeing of every member of the country state agencies provide health services (HSA) as well as financial help (SWA) to the most vulnerable, not forgetting those in their golden years (SPF).

Today, the extent of state intervention has gradually increased with the creation of new agencies as government moves further away from direct service delivery.

Alternatives to direct service delivery

State enterprise service delivery: we have seen earlier where government delegates service delivery to one of its agencies operating at arm’s length from the ongoing operations of government, whereby government sets the policy framework and the agency operates the service.

Devolution of service delivery: where government transfers the responsibility for delivering a service to another body that receives transfer payments to provide the service. This is seen in the fishing sector where in the fuelling system at the Seychelles Fishing Authority fuel subsidies are given to local fishermen for the day-to-day provision of fish as one strategy towards food security.

Decentralisation of service delivery: where services are brought closer to the citizens in order to respond directly to their needs and that of the districts. We see local government acting on behalf of central government to see to the planning and implementation of community projects, the management of community facilities and infrastructure, and the management of all the homes for the elderly. In essence local government, through the district administrations, is responsible for carrying out community-oriented programmes which contribute to national development.

Purchase of services: government buys services under contract from a private firm but retains accountability for the service. This method of service provision is seen in the contracting out of meals, cleaning, security, landscape and maintenance services, to name but a few.

Licensing: in this example we see government granting a licence to operate a business and conferring on it the right to sell a product or service in accordance with prescribed terms and conditions. This we see it today in financial services, whereby the government is committed to an independent monetary and exchange rate policy as set by the Central Bank of Seychelles, and so allows private individuals and firms to operate foreign currency bureaux. Another example is in the field of employment where we have recently seen the opening of three employment service bureaux by the private sector, an area which was previously exclusively government’s role.

Privatisation: government sells its assets or controlling interests in a service to a private sector company. This was the case with the State Assurance Company of Seychelles (Sacos).

Partnerships: with the increasing alliance between the state and non-state partners, we see more partnerships growing; the Employment Department together with private employment agencies launched an employment fair. The training of public sector employees affected by the retrenchment in government was taken up through partnership with the Small Enterprise Promotion Agency (Senpa), Seychelles Institute of Management (SIM) and the Seychelles Tourism Academy (STA). With the planned retrenchment of government in production areas, it handed over the animal feed factory to the farming community to operate as a cooperative, a partnership that puts the onus in the hands of the farmers to move forward on the food security policy.

To ensure the geographic mobility of Seychelles’ human resources pool as a key element necessary for sustainable growth, government has revised its policy to allow private participation alongside the public transport service; private individuals provide funeral transport services and entrepreneurs operate the public transport system on Praslin. Growing partnerships with non-governmental organisations are imminent considering the signing of the memorandum of understanding with civil society for NGO/government relations this year.

Maintaining sustainable development

There are no guarantees that efficiency gains will be seen in these alternatives to direct service provision or that this methodology will see to the sustainability of our development. However, in these troubled economic times, especially so given their global scale, the time has come to realise that government alone cannot satisfy its citizens’ expectations and that change in the way public services are delivered is inevitable.
The political will for change exists, the move to create the enabling
environment has begun, the rolling back of the state in favour of the private sector has been put in motion and the decision on the strategic shift from implementer to facilitator has been given.

Debate and discussion vital to the development of dynamic economic policies are ongoing, and the drive to meet the needs of all Seychellois by working “together, for the love of Seychelles” has been launched.

This change in the way government is to do business with regard to public services must reflect ethics, transparency and accountability, and include good timing and accessibility for quality service delivery to the Seychellois citizen.

Significant progress has been made regarding governance-related matters. The government has adopted the Public Officers’ Ethics Act, which provides for a code of conduct and ethics for all public servants and requires financial declarations and declaration of assets from the President, Vice-President, Ministers, Members of the National Assembly, judicial office holders, senior public servants and board members of public sector agencies.

The Public Procurement Act, a law which standardises, modernises and harmonises procurement regulations and procedures has brought about enhanced transparency, efficiency and competitiveness in tender procedures.

This year’s Public Service Day theme – Maintaining sustainable development: fostering partnership for improved public service delivery – shares the spirit of our own 2009 national theme of Koste Seselwa (Come Together Seychellois).

Both themes urge all sectors in society to join hands, work together and boost our solidarity at a time when we are undertaking the profound changes that will enable our nation to continue on the road of prosperity, even as we face emerging global challenges.

As we celebrate Public Service Day today we also call on all public sector workers to come together in unity to build on our achievements and continue with the transformation of the public sector for more efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Koste Travayer Servis Piblik!

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