Reinvigoration of the Public Sector


I do not mean re-engineering or even re-structuring. Maybe all we need is merely to invigorate the government system in order for it to achieve the maximum efficiency that is expected of it.

We have tried such modes of re-invention as re-engineering and re-structuring, at great cost in time and money, and yet improvements have not been substantial or palpable. The public continues to languish in long queues every time a license or a passport is needed. Bribes are ever pernicious, and even more open today, like it is not anymore a secret that should be tucked inside the pocket or a key thrown into the deepest ocean.

The public continues to encounter lazy faces of public servants seemingly tired of their day job and daydreaming of life in beaches almost all day long. At the slightest error, the public who is merely seeking public service get squirmed at by those who are especially employed by the government in order to serve the public, and in order that the common person have the convenience that the government owes them.

What is the aim of the public sector now? This is one vital question that should be addressed before everything can be settled. Is the public servant merely holding position just in order to make a living? He or she should rather be selling vegetables or meat in the market, at least thereat, there would be wider potentiality for the improvement of wealth. Nobody could really get rich in the government service, even serving for a long time.

Is the public servant merely holding position for social status and pride? He or she would rather be joining pageants and spectacles on television, for he or she would be known better there.

The public office is a public trust. This dogma had even been institutionalized in our most fundamental set of laws – our Constitution – and this is most encompassing of all, where no one should be allowed to forget the essence of public service, which is in order to serve the people, and not merely for self aggrandizement.

In view of the foregoing issues, therefore it is but time to realigned our views about the public sector, starting from the people within it. That for every employee of the government, whether national or local, every time he or she sees an individual, riding a Mercedes Benz or wearing no shoes and in tattered clothes, it should not matter, because that person, whether rich or poor, famous or unknown, is the very public sector he or she is aimed to serve.

In this manner, improvement of government service and the government system could be initiated, entering its nascent stages.

Despite the improvements in work environment, like air-conditioned areas, new buildings, expensive vehicles and increase in pay and bonuses, government service remains the same old horse, who is lackluster in movement, lacks dynamism and most of all, deficient towards its main aim of serving the public dutifully and with vigor. The government remains a system that is prone to stagnation and inefficiency, misappropriation, abuse of authority and lack of direction.

We have tried re-engineering the government system in the past and yet even the best re-engineers couldn’t tame the wild river that is the Philippine government system. Maybe we need a rocket scientist for this. We have tried re-structuring but even if our re-structurers could build a pyramid or an Eiffel Tower out of a molehill, the government system remains an ancient nipa hut.

Maybe it’s time that we should try re-invigoration.

It’s not as complicated to do as re-structuring does or as expensive as a re-engineering would demand. It only takes will, political will and cooperation from the people in the system. There are a number of factors that would be put in focus in this aim of putting the government service in the right track, one is leadership, two is awareness, three is competition, four incentive, and five public choice.

In LEADERSHIP, I mean to say political leadership. When we all almost agree that politics and the bureaucracy could not really be separated and is intertwined almost all the time, leadership becomes a most important factor in putting vigor and integrity back into the government service. In choosing our political leaders, especially in the next election activities in the coming years, the people should now aim for leaders who have proven capacity to lead and carry an entire workforce towards the improvement of service. It starts with the people then. If the electorate fails in the first place to change our leadership from the highest level, towards the root level, then re-invigorization of the government system would remain an illusion.

AWARENESS is two-pronged, first there should be awareness or a high level of consciousness among our public servants that their holding of their respective positions is not meant for self-aggrandizement alone, as a form of livelihood above all, but in order to serve the public well, and this should become a passionate and patriotic mission in every individual that would be integrated into the government service. Secondly, there should be similar level of awareness as to the PUBLIC being the CLIENT that the government is aimed to served, (the private sector prefer to call them CUSTOMERS) and the government system is aimed at primarily serving the needs of the CLIENT, that when the client is dissatisfied, public service becomes irrelevant and inefficient in every sensible sense possible. The CLIENT becomes the reason for existence, without it, there is no public service in the first place. This way, every client that enters the halls of a government office should be served well, for the moment that no one would anymore enter the halls of government offices, is just about the time that public service should eradicated.

COMPETITION could be injected into the public sector so that improvement of service could pertain. If the public could be given a choice as to the locus of a better service that they are necessitating, then every public servant would aim to proffer the better form or kind of service. This would entail privatization or semi-privatization of some government agencies or giving the public more stake in the government system, where there is increased community involvement in public service. Competition would entail the heightened accountability and responsibility factor, where the government service would become directly accountable towards the community, that there is really not one that is indispensable, that the public would always have a better place to go when someone in the public sector doesn’t want to serve the people anymore, but only wants to receive salaries and bonuses. This is where PUBLIC CHOICE comes. This element of re-invigorization is the most complicated of all, but it could be done through medium term action plan, like say five years in the process, incrementally achieved by phases. And of course, this would entail a more detailed document and methodology. Competition also would bring forth to the adjustment of tenures in public service where at present, there is that seemingly extreme bias in favor of security of tenure, so extreme that even if a public servant would go to his or her work in drag and sleep all day, the government system could not take him or her away, resulting to mass demoralization and low-level performances. Public service should straightened out its merit system that only a good performance could lead to promotions and increase in compensation, that not one indispensable that for whenever a public servant does not want to serve the public anymore, as expected of him or her, then other more competent or more able individuals from the workforce should be recruited in his or her stead.

INCENTIVES of course remains a very important element, just like in re-structuring or re-engineering, that for every PUBLIC CHOICE of a government service, the better service would gain performance incentives, such as quota bonuses for a certain level unit of work, like for example if this government cashier had served 100 clients in a day, then performance credits and bonuses would inure or if this inspector had visited more areas or locations in a month than all the rest, he or she receives a hefty amount. It could be done in a larger scale that for example if this government agency branch had performed well in a particular year, more than the others in the same field, the whole workforce of that branch would get bonuses and be lauded with public acclaim. They do that in private sector, that’s why the private sector had been able to build the grand Makati skyline over the years, and is establishing another in Fort Bonifacio and in Ortigas, aside from the busting urban scene in Cebu and Davao, and they do not receive any subsidy from taxpayers, unlike the government service system.

The private sector had not been fraught with issues of grand corruption because employees in the private sector do not attain such level of indispensability like that in the public service, where those who performed well are credited well and remain in the service for long, while those who are lackluster and lack integrity in work is taken out of the system. And besides, if one reaches a managerial or administrative level in the private sector, one is assured of hefty compensation that is why, in recent years, managers and executives of private companies have been able to increased sales in dramatic proportions. There are a lot of things that the government service could learn from the private sector in terms of methodologies, form of work structure, incentive system, recruitment and promotion system, tenures of employees, work ethics and level of competency and most of all in their treatment of the CLIENT, which they often call as the CUSTOMER.

In public service, the CLIENT may not always be right, but for certain they are the reason for being. A population that is served better by the government, in terms of public service—- like education, licenses, security of food, public order and safety, health and welfare, livelihood opportunities, housing, job placements, communication and technology, etc.—- is a population that can make a better government and thereon, a more vibrant State.

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