Improving public service through performance contracting and social accountability

Wednesday, 27 February 2019 15:47 Written by 
  • Location(s): Liberia
  • Type(s): Solution
  • Theme(s): Civil Service , Public Services
  • SDG(s): 10. Reduced Inequalities
  • Locations in Africa: Liberia
  • Types in Africa: Solution
  • Themes in Africa: Civil Service , Public Services
  • SDGs in Africa: 10. Reduced Inequalities
  • Types of ComSec Solutions: Solution

Summary

The project seeks to support the Government of Liberia to design a Performance Management System to improve the overall performance of the civil service with measurable indicators for effective performance monitoring towards improved service delivery, through a combination of performance contracting and active harvesting and analysis of citizen feedback data.

Challenge

Liberia is slowly transitioning from a prolonged period of conflict and fragility. Following a peaceful political transition, the new government may struggle to fulfill its pro-poor policy agenda and will be particularly challenged to address significant poverty, high unemployment and disadvantaged rural areas. The Government of Liberia is committed to delivering a pro-poor development agenda that outlines ambitious improvements in the living conditions for ordinary Liberians. A centerpiece of the agenda is to improve the provision of quality public services to all citizens including the most vulnerable and marginalized groups of the population. Improved access to quality health care and education, significant infrastructure improvements as well as the establishment of transparent, accountable and effective public institutions have been some of the promises that Liberians' now eagerly are waiting for the government to fulfill. This has necessitated a civil service characterized by effective planning, sound formulation of specific policy objectives within realistic timelines and effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to track progress; all within the context of an institutional environment characterized by transparency, accountability and purpose. This is a tall order considering that the civil service regularly is accused of poor responsiveness to citizens' needs. Maladministration, corruption and adherence to archaic rules and excessive red tape, are also frequently attributed to the civil service. A key reason lies with the low remuneration levels that demotivate civil servants to provide quality and timely services. In addition, they often receive insufficiently opportunities for systematic professional growth, and existing performance evaluation systems are often substandard with little to no value attached to the outcome. As a result, the civil service is unable to attract and retain high-quality professionals with required skills, knowledge and experience.

Solution

In an effort to improve the performance culture of the Liberian civil service, the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs with the support of UNDP started to support the design of a performance management system that includes performance contracts for the President to sign with key public officials that have clear indicators and monitoring tools for effective delivery of services. Such a system, widely applied in many South countries such as Sierra Leone, Kenya and many others, seek to ensure the accountability of public officials by having them identify and commit to clearly defined annual targets along with their indicators of success to measure service delivery. It is a strategic approach to management, which equips leaders, managers, employees and other stakeholders at various levels with a set of tools and techniques to regularly plan, continuously monitor, periodically measure and review the performance of the organization in terms of indicators and targets for efficiency, effectiveness and impact.

The initiative has two components:

1. Development of Performance Contracts: As a first step, all ministers appointed by the President sign annual performance contracts with Cabinet Ministers that monitor their performance in delivering agreed targets that contribute towards the achievement of key Government of Liberia development priorities. The indicators in the performance tracking tables, through which government ministers are monitored will reflect system-wide performance of their ministries. The achievement of the targets is dependent on performance by staff at various levels within the ministry from the lowest to the highest graded staff, making performance a shared responsibility. It is important that all members of the team are held accountable for the performance of their ministry. The PDU within the Presidency has the sole responsibility for coordinating performance management and service improvement efforts within ministries and agencies. The PDU takes responsibility in coordinating performance contracting, help in developing the requisite tools such as the guidelines, performance evaluation system, tracking tables, etc, and in generating the required information and data to assist in tracking, monitoring and evaluating performance, ensuring cross-synergies with the appraisal system for the public service.

2. Citizen Feedback System (CFS): With various digital technologies such as e-mail, text messaging, online reporting etc., citizens are able to report anything from teacher absenteeism, damaged roads and improper behavior by civil servants to the CFS. Once the report is filed, and following validation by the PDU team, it is forwarded to the relevant ministry or government agency. The concerned institution then sends a response through the CFS with an SMS notification to the reporting citizen/complainant about the action taken. This whole process is designed to be completed within days. Quarterly progress reports on compiled citizen feedback data is presented to the heads of each ministry and agency. Furthermore, if a public institution fails to respond to a complaint within one month the CFS team reports this to the President's Delivery Unit creating a strong disincentive for non-compliance. A major strength with this initiative is that it provides a speedy, low-cost channel for a citizen to voice their concerns and influence public services through modern technology. This is particularly important in Liberia which suffers from severe infrastructure deficits coupled with a very challenging geographical environment. Moreover, with internet usage and mobile connectivity on the rise, this is a tool that to a very low cost would allow citizens in large parts of Liberia to increasingly have a say in the quality of services and how they can be improved.

Some signature achievements of the initiative include:

  • A revised Cabinet Members’ Handbook and updated Cabinet Guidelines for Ministries Agencies and Commissions (MACs);
  • A Performance Manual for Cabinet Secretariats to enable effective follow up on the outcomes of Cabinet retreats, as well as decisions taken at regular meetings of the Cabinet;
  • Institutional systems improvements combined with capacity development initiatives that will enable Cabinet Secretariat staff to support MACs in an effective and evidence-based manner; and
  • The outline of Performance Contracts signed between the President and high ranking public officials that strengthen accountable and effective ministerial delivery of essential services.

A Citizens’ Feedback Mechanism that will improve provision of public services to all Liberians, especially vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, by helping the government compile and analyze essential services data to better understand what kind of services need to be improved in what parts of the country for what kind of individuals (women, men, girls, boys, old, young). The Citizen’s Feedback Mechanism is geared towards improving the overall performance management systems of the Government, combined with compilation and analysis of citizens’ feedback data to improve public services.

Improving access to basic service delivery is key to helping the government through Ministries, Agencies and Commissions (MACS), achieve milestones under its national development agenda and promoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Citizens’ Feedback Mechanism has a strong potential to help make the voices of the people heard. The initiative will go a long way in helping the government connect to ordinary Liberians on how services are being accessed and utilized and what needs to be improved. The Citizens’ Feedback Mechanism has the potential to play a significant role in realizing the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD’s) policy goal under Pillar IV, as it directly speaks to building “An inclusive and accountable public sector for shared prosperity and sustainable development, building state institutions and making evidence-based decisions”. At the heart of the Citizens’ Feedback Mechanism is an ICT platform that allows service users to report on their experiences, through simple, fast, and low-cost digital technologies, e.g., Whatsapp, text messaging, e-mails etc. Over time, the Citizens’ Feedback Mechanism will generate large quantities of data on service delivery. A critical success factor is a very positive impact the initiative can generate for citizens in terms of improving service delivery in various sectors- education, healthcare and infrastructure services. Moreover, through a comprehensive analysis of the large quantities of data compiled by the Citizens’ Feedback Mechanism, it is anticipated to play a supporting role with a significant impact in planning, implementation and monitoring of SDG performance nationally as well as sub-nationally.

There is also significant potential for expansion and growth of the initiative under South-South Cooperation. As the initiative scales up, there will be ample scope for new and strengthened partnerships to be formed with some key international partners. With UNDP support, the Government of Liberia has also been host to a High-Level Forum of Africa Cabinet Secretaries. The Forum provides an unusually newsworthy opportunity and good media platform to demonstrate Liberia’s far-reaching Performance Management reform accomplishments since 2018, through UNDP Country Investment Facility support.

Provider Country: UNDP Liberia

Beneficiary Country: Liberia

Supported by: UNDP Country Investment Facility

Implementing Agency: Ministry of State of Presidential Affairs, Civil Service Agency, Governance Commission

Project Status: On-going

Project Period: 2018-2019

Contact Person: Henrik Lindroth, UNDP Liberia
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Read 1676 times Last modified on Monday, 11 March 2019 09:13
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