Whether it goes under the name of public sector management reform, public administration reform or public service reform, the task of transforming the way that governments operate and deliver services to their citizens has been a priority for donors and international organisations - and governments themselves - for many years. Yet despite the vast investment made (around US$2 billion a year in official development assistance) studies by the World Bank and others have shown that much of this reform effort has proved ineffective. Poor administration, ineffectual policy-making and weak structures of accountability remain significant barriers to effective public service delivery in many places.
While the challenge of making government more efficient and effective is a universal one, successful answers are certainly not. All too often, reforms have failed to take root - sometimes a direct reflection of the inappropriate approach adopted, sometimes the result of insufficient commitment to reform, or sometimes due to a range of factors beyond government’s immediate control. So how can you drive long-term change in public administration, when there is so little consensus about what works? Can business-school theory be applied in a developing country context?
Public service delivery is rarely the responsibility of a single organisation. Local agencies may be responsible for implementing a service on the ground; multiple ministries may be involved in planning and budgeting and policy direction. Yet attempts to reform and streamline delivery often focus on one organisation rather than examining the whole spectrum of related entities, and strengthening the way they work together.
Effective decision-making processes at the core of government are a prerequisite for a well-functioning public sector. But conflicting lines of authority, poor evidence and analysis, weak central coordination and ongoing battles for resources all detract from a government’s ability to set and implement policy - which has obvious consequences for the rest of the public sector. So how can the right management structures and processes be established?
We're helping the Government of Bangladesh to strengthen its parliamentary oversight as part of a bigger drive to improve the supply and demand sides of its public financial management system. Read more
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