THE CHALLENGES OF PUBLIC SERVICE AT POLICY MAKING LEVEL IN TANZANIA
Lieutenant General C. L. Makakala,
Commandant of the National Defence College;
Let me begin by expressing my pleasure and gratitude for the opportunity to visit, once again, the National Defence College, a College we are proud of, and in which we repose our great hopes for equipping senior officials of Government with the intellectual and strategic tools they need to be better leaders; leaders who know the national interest and are able and willing to promote and defend it.
I thank you College Commandant, Lt. Gen. C. L. Makakala, for your invitation to speak to the Class of 2014, just as I did to the Class of 2013. And, as you asked me, I am here to talk about “The Challenges of the Public Service at Policy Making Level”.
1.0 Outline and Introduction
1.1 I decided to structure my paper in seven parts:
- The Public Service;
- Challenges of Context and Relevance;
- Challenges of Policy Management;
- Challenges in Policy Making;
- Challenges in Policy Implementation;
- Some Conclusions and Way Forward.
1.2 In the first part of this paper I will discuss the role of the Public Service, pointing out that the Public Service is part of the State machinery, to provide various services to the people. I will also argue that while public servants are involved in the policy making process, the final decision falls within the political domain of each country's leadership. It follows, therefore, that a great deal of interaction is necessary between and among all the players if we are to move forward the national economic and development agenda, and serve the people.
1.3 In part two of my paper, I will discuss the first set of challenges faced by the Public Service, which are challenges related to the context in which the Public Service operates and how to make the Public Service relevant to changing political, economic, social and historical environment.
1.4 The third part of the paper will focus on challenges of the Public Service related to policy making and implementation and how this in turn relates to the contextual and relevance challenges.
1.5 In the last part, I will draw some conclusions and discuss the way forward in order to achieve effective policy making and implementation.
2.0 The Public Service
2.1 Most dictionaries would define the Public Service as the institutional set up and staffing to manage and administer the affairs of a State. The evolution of the Public Service of any State is synonymous with the evolution of that State. According to Finer (1999), the first attested states that emerged around 3200BC in theNileValleyinEgyptand Sumeria, were also the first states with known bureaucracies or public services. Similar views were earlier held by Poulantzas (1974) who noted that the Public Services belong to, and are a key component of, the State apparatus.
2.2. Public Services are, therefore, inextricably linked to and are an essential part of the State. They derive legitimacy from their particular relationship to institutionalized State power. They do not have power of their own, and their survival depends on the functioning of the State. Conversely, the functioning of the State depends on a functioning Public Service, which derives its vision and mission from the vision and mission of a particular State at a particular point in time. It then contributes to the functioning and effectiveness of the State. In this respect, Public Services must have certain key features that reflect their organic relationship with the State.
2.3 In the paper presented at the Conference of Deputy Permanent Secretaries and Directors of Policy and Planning last year, Professor Rwekaza Mukandala, (the Vice Chancellor of the University of Dar es Salaam), argued that a contemporary strong and effective public service should have several key defining features that include, among others, the presence of a strong organic link between the Public Service and the State. This entails a shared vision and a total acceptance by the Public Service of the value ends of organizational action set by the State. Secondly, and in the same vein, is the importance of an organic and symbiotic relationship between the Public Service and society. The Public Service must feel and champion society’s aspirations, and serve the people’s interests if not in the short term, then certainly in the long term. Public Services must, therefore, be appreciated and their actions and programs supported by society.
2.4 The Public Service is an organization that is permanently in function, with a clear hierarchy, and specialized into various fields, manned by educationally and vocationally qualified personnel, who are paid and full time; and whose operations are rule-governed. What gives all the above life, and makes them organic rather than mechanical, and moulding them into one fully-weaved, well-bundled and articulated powerful organization, is the organization’s vision and mission, and leadership.
2.5 I should, therefore, hasten to emphasize that a powerful and strong Public Service must always be well-led. Such an organizational construct must be well- thought out and designed; well-resourced with human, technological and financial resources and with a good functioning organizational system, that not only plans action, but implements such plans, and evaluates performance for results and critical organizational learning.
2.6 It follows, therefore, that by definition, if the aforementioned essential characteristics and requirements of the Public Service are not in place, challenges in its performance, including in the policy formulation and implementation sphere, will emerge. Without sound structures; human resources with relevant technical competencies; established and functioning values, laws, regulations and guidelines; financial resources, and the like, the Public Service will always be challenged and underperforming.
2.7 The other thing to bear in mind is that there cannot be a State without a Public Service. The Public Service is the engine that drives and enables a State to function. It is the constant factor in Government, and that is why the various Chief Executives who run Ministries are called Permanent Secretaries, not because they are themselves permanent, but because their offices do not change when political leadership changes. The Public Service provides the technical competence for Governments to operate, and they embody the institutional memory necessary for a country to move forward. Of course, in a multi-party political dispensation, the Public Service has to be apolitical, ready and willing to work with whatever political party is in power. This also poses its own set of challenges for the Public Service.
3.0 Challenges of Context and Relevance
3.1 This brings me to the challenges of context and relevance. And the question here is how the Public Service, which as a bureaucracy, by definition, is a conservative institution, can still remain relevant and effective even as times and circumstances change. We live in a world that is in a perpetual state of flux. How can the Public Service adopt and embrace change so as to continue being relevant. I will give a few examples of such challenges at the local, national, regional and international levels. I hope you will then appreciate that policy making and implementation must be contextual; it cannot occur in a vacuum, insulated against what is happening around it.
3.2 A good example at the local level is what happened in Mtwara and Lindi regions last year. First, the people there find out that their regions are blessed with abundant natural gas resources. Then they develop huge expectations as to how their lives will be transformed, almost overnight, because of the discovery of natural gas. Then they hear that the Government is building a pipeline to take the gas to Dar es Salaam, and all hell breaks loose. Frankly, the Government was caught unawares by the violent and misinformed reaction by the people. With hindsight, one wishes the Government had engaged local communities earlier and developed a communication strategy that could help to manage the expectations of the people and proactively develop policies and strategies that would reduce the people’s resistance to Government’s well-meaning plans for the gas resources.
3.3 At the national level, we can look at different epochs in our history and how the Public Service was challenged to respond to the priorities and needs of each. Under colonialism, our rulers were interested in law and order and how to subdue the natives, and give them only that amount of education and health they needed to be better cooks, gardeners, drivers, messengers, clerks, policemen or soldiers. At independence the challenge of Public Service changed, with priorities on how to develop the human resource capacity to govern ourselves and meet the aspirations of our people for the “fruits of independence.” From the mid-1960s we became a socialist country, nationalized the “commanding heights of the economy” and invested heavily in publicly owned industries, farms and businesses. In the 1990s we embarked upon an extensive privatization programme. Today, we are moving to the centre, trying to rebalance the relationship between the public and the private sector, including through Public Private Partnerships. One can imagine the huge challenges that the Public Service had to face in adjusting to these huge swings in the political, economic and social context in which it operates.
3.4 At the regional level, I will give a few examples. One is the East African Community. In the 1960s and early 1970s we built it into an acknowledged example of a strong and successful economic community, well ahead of the European Economic Community, at that time. Then we dismantled it, almost completely, before realising our mistake and beginning to rebuild it over the last fifteen years. All this had huge implications and challenges for public policy and implementation. You are also aware of the conflicts in the Great Lakes Region, and how these have had an impact in our domestic policies and the challenges we still have to deal with because of what is happening in our neighbouring countries.
3.5 At the international level, I will give three examples. One is globalization and how this phenomenon has had huge implications for national policies and the conduct of the Public Services of each country. As part of globalization, we also have the issue of phenomenal technological changes, including in Information and Communication Technologies, which impose on us, both at the policy making and policy implementation levels, the obligation to adjust, respond and be relevant. Another important component for us is our relationship with Development Partners, and International Financial Institutions. Sometimes the terms and conditions in which we get their support has implications and challenges for policy making and implementation.
4.0 Institutional Framework for Policy Management
4.1 I mentioned earlier that the Public Service as an institution and part of the State machinery must be organized. In order to assess the efficacy of the Public Service in terms of policy management, it is imperative to assess the institutional framework through which policies are developed and adopted by the Government.
4.2 Like the Public Service itself, the institutional framework for policy making and implementation has evolved through various stages depending on social, political and economic dynamics at national, regional and international levels. These dynamics include population growth, growth of the Public Service and technological advancement. These dynamics have invariably necessitated different policy responses given the fact that a policy is defined as an ‘intentional course of action followed by a Government institution or officials for resolving an issue of public concern’ (Cochran et al 1976:2).
4.3 Efforts towards creating and continuously improving an effective institutional framework for policy-making began soon after independence. These efforts included the establishment of key structures and the design of the policy making process. Thus, the Legislative Committee of the Cabinet was established in 1963, first by Presidential Circular Number 1, followed by Presidential Circular Number 2 of 1963. The two circulars gave effect to Cabinet decision making and guidelines relating to the legislative process, respectively.
4.4 Various structures and processes such as the Economic Development Committees were at different times established to lead and coordinate national development planning, providing a national framework for policy management. It is in this light that the current committee system of the Cabinet, together with the supportive structures, namely, the Committee of all Permanent Secretaries commonly referred to as the Inter-Ministerial Technical Committee (IMTC) and the Cabinet Secretariat, were established in 1985. Besides these committees, each ministry has a fully fledged Policy and Planning Department. This process enables the Cabinet to get technical inputs needed for informed decision making. The Government remains willing to review periodically the operating guidelines, procedures and methods for policy making with the view to continuously improving the policy development processes, and address new challenges as they emerge.
4.5 This institutional framework has proved, over the years, to be effective. It has helped to continuously improve the policy making process. And, in order to ensure that this institutional framework remains vibrant, we have on several occasions subjected it to a number of tests and revisions, and undertook remedial measures including, for example, the revision of guidelines for cabinet decision making process that were effected through Presidential Circular Number 1 of 2000. There have also been times when the Government commissioned independent evaluations for similar purposes, such as the Adu Commission (1963) and the Mc Kinsey Report (1972), as well as a fairly recent study that is relevant to the topic we are discussing today which was undertaken by Professor Mukandala and Kithinji Kiragu in 2008.
4.6 This study, entitled “Strengthening the Policy Development Process” was commissioned as one of the activities under the Public Service Reform Programme Phase II (PSRP II). The major thrust of the study was to assess the efficacy and capacity of the policy management function within the government, in order to identify structural and operational gaps; and to propose measures to improve the function. The study revealed several strengths and weaknesses of the Government’s policy development process. The strengths include:
(a) A legacy of strong technical orientation in policy development and decision-making across government: The formal process of policy development and decision-making of the Government of Tanzania has a legacy of a technical orientation that is not common among many Governments in developing countries.
(b) Sound arrangement of Cabinet Committees: Usually the Cabinet Committees deal with matters that do not require the attention of the full Cabinet, including scrutinizing Cabinet papers, particularly those with recommendations pertaining to basic policies.
(c) A sound institutional and organization framework: Clear and elaborate procedures for the preparation and submission of policy papers through the originating ministry, the Cabinet Secretariat, the IMTC and the Cabinet. Also the framework provides space for critique and enhancement of the policy proposals and options by technical experts in the Cabinet Secretariat and IMTC.
(d) The Cabinet Secretariat staffed with senior and experienced technical and professional officers from ministries: The Secretariat is mandated to critique and undertake quality reviews of all policy papers before presentation to IMTC and eventually to the Cabinet. The Cabinet Secretariat operates under the leadership and executive direction of the Secretary to Cabinet, who is also the Chief Secretary and Head of Public Service.
(e) Establishment of IMTC: This is the technical mirror of the Cabinet. The sustained regularity of its meetings and the seriousness with which its otherwise very busy members (all Permanent Secretaries) take its business are not common among committees of many bureaucracies.
(f) Establishment of the policy and planning units in the ministries: Through these units, it is now clear who has the role and function of championing, facilitating and coordinating policy development in every ministry. Directors leading these units also serve as Cabinet Liaison Officers (CLOs) linking ministries with the Cabinet Secretariat. Prior to this development, there was serious inertia in policy development in many ministries.
(g) Involvement of stakeholders in the policy process: The Guidelines on the formulation of policies require the policy initiating ministry to engage seriously with as many stakeholders as possible before and during the policy formulation process.
4.7 In other words, the study concluded that the institutional framework for policy development in Tanzania is relatively strong and it provides a concrete foundation and mechanism for the continuous improvement of the policy development function.
4.8 The study, however, also pointed out some challenges which had to be addressed as follows:
(a) Policy development is predominantly reactive: Policies in ministries are not driven by strategic plans.
(b) Inadequate capacity of the Cabinet Secretariat: The capacity of the Cabinet Secretariat in terms of staffing and facilities is inadequate to effectively handle its broad and growing mandate and scope of functions.
(c) Low capacity of the policy and planning units in ministries: The low capacity is noted in terms of inexperienced policy analysts; unclear job profiles for staff positions in the units; and inadequate support to policy analysis.
(d) Policy development guidelines focus on compliance with the process and not quality standards of the policy papers: A rigorous screening process was not part of the guidelines. In other words, the guidelines were more about form and not substance of the papers.
(e) Participation by stakeholders does not receive due attention: The involvement of stakeholders is somewhat superficial and patchy. Concerns include the modalities and extent of stakeholder participation.
(f) Ambiguities in role definitions of key entities at the centre of Government: Effectiveness in policy development is undermined by the blurred boundaries between and among institutions that have responsibilities for policy management.
(g) Implementation plans are not articulated in many policy papers: A common weakness of many policy papers is that they are submitted without implementation strategies and action plans.
(h) Weak communication and information system: There is no robust communication framework and strategy for sharing information on public policy issues at the center of government.
(i) Weak Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) System: This was identified as the weakest link in the policy management process.
4.9 The Government, consequently formulated an action plan to address these challenges. In summary, we took the following measures to further strengthen policy management capacity:
(a) Strengthening institutional framework for policy management: As already pointed out, the Government elevated Policy and Planning Units to the status of fully fledged directorates (i.e. Directorate of Policy and Planning). These departments have three units, namely Policy Development, Planning and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E).
(b) Strengthening Monitoring and Evaluation: A decision was made to establish the M&E Committee in the Cabinet Secretariat, increasing its committees from five to six.
(c) Revising guidelines to strengthen policy development: The guidelines for preparation and submission of policy papers have been revised, making it mandatory for the policy proposals to be submitted together with implementation strategies and action plans.
(d) Capacity Development: A comprehensive capacity enhancement programme for staff in Policy and Planning Departments across government has been developed by the President’s Office, Public Service Management in collaboration with the University of Dar es Salaam, and it is being implemented in order to equip staff with the required policy analysis competencies. Graduates of this programme will form a National Policy Team (NPT) to serve as policy analysts in Government.
(e)Revision of Policy Development Guidelines: The government prepared and distributed to all MDAs Guidelines, including those related to enhancing effective participation of Non-State Actors (NSAs) in policy management processes. Opinions of such stakeholders are now required to be attached to all cabinet papers.
5.0 Challenges of Public Service in Policy Making
5.1 The challenges that the Public Service faces in terms of policy making appear at two interrelated levels. The first category of challenges is at the level of policy formulation, and the second category is at the implementation level. I submit that these challenges are interrelated because in policy analysis theory, it is not possible to place a clear line of demarcation in the course of the policy management cycle that involves four steps, namely; (i) how policy problems arise and appear on the agenda of the Government; (ii) how issues are formulated for action, (iii) how legislative and other actions follow and (iv) the evaluation of the policy (Lindblom 1980: 3). I will therefore discuss the challenges based on this theoretical proposition, especially in the context of the current political set up, for, as I pointed out earlier, policy management is both a technical undertaking (involving bureaucrats who are public servants), as well as a political undertaking (involving political leadership in the Executive Branch and in Parliament).
5.2 Some of the challenges have already been alluded to in this paper, especially those related to institutional issues raised in the Mukandala and Kiragu study of 2008. Much as the Government tries to address them, some of them still persist. To some extent, these are a result of the current socio- economic dynamics that the country is going through. My experience shows that much as the role and the organic relationship between the Public Service and the State has not changed, the ‘mechanics’ of running modern politics, and therefore the Public Service, have changed for obvious reasons.
(a) Unlike in the past when the Public Service operated under the single party, the current multi-party political dispensation poses several challenges in terms of setting the policy agenda. For instance, in formulating the agenda, Public Servants (and indeed policy makers), have to consider the possible reaction and challenges from other political parties.
(b) Secondly, the society which the Public Service is serving is also undergoing continuous transformation with ever-growing divergent interests in the policy process. Again, my experience shows that in the past, the society was relatively homogeneous, with few organized interest groups compared to the diversity of interest groups that characterizes our society now. Tanzania has in recent years, experienced unprecedented proliferation of Non Government Organizations (NGOs) in almost every field. These include Policy Forum, Foundation of Civil Society, Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP), Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA), TRADE UNIONS, Jukwaa la Katiba, Jukwaa la Wahariri, Haki Elimu, and Faith Based Organizations such as Baraza Kuu la Waislam Tanzania (BAKWATA), Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT), and Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC); just to mention a few examples out of thousands of NGOs. On the economic front, there are such organizations like the Private Sector Foundation, Tanzania National Business Council, Tanzania Confederation of Industries (TCI), Tanzania Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA), and so on.
(c) Then there is a very active and robust media which is increasingly critical of Government policies, and which is not always ethical and professional. I do not know if we know exactly how many media outlets in terms of newspapers, radio and tv stations, and social media are out there, each with its own demands, viewpoints and criticism.
5.3 The policy development cycle referred to above suggests that in some cases, some policies require some form of legislation that elaborates the course of action. In a democracy like Tanzania, legislation falls within the jurisdiction of the Legislative Branch. Like in policy agenda setting, public servants and their political masters have to face similar interests at the legislative stage. In recent years, Parliament has witnessed the emergence of competing political interests which was not the case during the single party Parliament.
5.4 The protracted and often acrimonious debate that is ensuing in the current parliamentary session, and the Constitutional Assembly before that, provides evidence of the challenges policy makers are facing today. Operating in such an environment is a big challenge because it raises the issues which, in the policy analysis discourse, are classified as the ‘power play’ in public policy management. This has implications for the policy formulation process that also determines how particular policies are implemented. In a society that is composed of different groups with varying interests, how does the Government satisfy or respond to each group? I would submit that the management of power play is another challenge that the Public Service faces because if allowed to dominate the policy process, there is a high possibility of falling into the trap of proposing and adapting multiple policies with little impact, a situation that may not be healthy for the Government and the society in general, for a number of reasons:
(a) First, it is not necessarily true that what a particular politician or interest group pushes in the name of the people actually represents what the population or the citizenry wants.
(b) Secondly, if policies are made to satisfy the needs of each group, it leads to multiple policies that require equally a huge amount of resources (institutional, human and financial) to implement. This will in the long run stretch the Government budget beyond limit.
(c) In most cases, some of the public policies are not properly implemented because, either their implementation strategies and programmes were in part under-resourced, or they were not supposed to be formulated, or were not even necessary in the first place. This is even more serious for a poor country likeTanzaniathat needs to be focused, strategic and disciplined if it is to develop rapidly. When you are poor everything seems a priority and in a multi-party political dispensation setting priorities becomes even more difficult.
6.0 The Challenges of Policy Implementation
6.1 Adopted policies must be implemented within the socio-economic context that has been explained above. The first step towards policy implementation must be to communicate the policy to the implementing agencies and other stakeholders. I tend to believe that probably poor communication of policy decisions is not due to the means through which it is channeled, but rather, the way policies are communicated. It is possible that due to diverse interests, every group or individual interprets policies in different ways and that leads to the distortion of the intended result. When Lyndon Johnson was elected President of the United States, he warned policy makers that ‘our problem is not to do what is right, our problem is to do the right thing’. (Quoted in Raymond A Bauer and Keneth J. Gergen 1971).
6.2 His observation remains relevant in our context because at times, policies are not effectively implemented because the message that is relayed about them gets distorted, either deliberately, or because it is not well articulated by those who communicate it. In today’s world, governments must learn to communicate better through well-thought out communication strategies that address issues such as framing, timing and sequencing of key messages, and better targeting. Governments must have the capacity to anticipate things and communicate clearly and proactively. They must also have the capacity to respond promptly when necessary to correct distortions or lies. What happened in Mtwara last year regarding natural gas related demonstrations, violence and destruction, re-emphasizes this point.
6.3 Other challenges at the implementation level revolve around issues of monitoring and evaluation. Policy monitoring and evaluation is not a peculiar problem to Tanzania. Governments all over the world are grappling with internal and external demands for greater accountability and transparency with a view to improving delivery of public services. Other demands include pressure for judicious use of tax payers’ money and showing real results of political promises made to constituencies. These demands have created pressures to build results-based monitoring and evaluation systems. The use of monitoring and evaluation in government became popularized between the 1980s and 1990s, as many countries adopted Performance Management Systems (PMS)/Results Based Management (RBM), under the umbrella of New Public Management Movement. These pressures included:
(a) Pressures by citizens and their representatives demanding greater accountability from their leaders (elected and appointed), and results of programmes and projects undertaken using taxpayers’ money;
(b) Decision makers wanting to use evidence generated from M&E systems in improving policies and making choices and informed decisions;
(c) Increased involvement of development partners in funding development programmes and projects, which requires aid recipients to report on progress and results;
(d) The emergence of free media and civil society organizations with requirements for transparency and accountability in the conduct of public affairs;
(e) Development programs and projects that require complex frameworks for monitoring, implementation and reporting resultsl; and
(f) The adoption of result-oriented reform agenda across government - the implementation of public sector reform programmes that have, as part of their objectives, the popularization of the use of M&E tools in Government business.
6.4 In Tanzania, public institutions have progressively taken further measures to develop and use M&E tools. The measures taken include:
(a) The development of M&E frameworks for monitoring and evaluating implementation of strategic plans in MDAs, following the implementation of PSRP (PMS component) and other cross-cutting reform programmes such as Public Finance Management Reform Program and Legal Sector Reform Programs; and,
(b) Support extended to Local Government Authorities to adopt and use M&E in their operations.
6.5 Despite these efforts, there are concerns that the pace of adoption and use of M&E tools in Tanzania has been relatively slow and largely limited to the monitoring aspect of M&E systems. Moreover, the interventions appear to have been generally sporadic, uncoordinated and lacking a central framework to provide guidance on M&E development and use.
6.6 That is why the Government has decided to establish the ‘Big Results Now! Initiative – BRN’), an initiative designed to accelerate and improve government delivery on a set of key priority areas for national development in line with Development Vision 2025, and consistent with the Five Year Development Plan.The system establishes a mechanism to set priorities, to break down development plans into Key Results Areas and Key Performance Indicators, with a robust follow up and problem solving mechanism to ensure timely delivery of results. The implementation is closely monitored by the President’s Delivery Bureau whose Chief Executive Officer works for and reports to the President.
6.7 A score card is kept for each Minister and those not meeting their Key Performance Indicators have to explain themselves to the President. So far, some success stories have been registered in the six priority sectors that were chosen to start applying this system which will eventually be rolled out to all other sectors. Recently, a seventh Key Results Area has been added, that of the Business Environment.
7.0 Some Conclusions and the Way Forward
7.1 The challenges that the Public Service faces, therefore, must be seen from the context of both local and global dynamics with the latter having been recently characterized in various media houses as the ‘second scramble for Africa’. The public service must therefore be capable to understand and analyze effectively these trends in order to recommend feasible policy options.
7.2 How this will be undertaken depends on the quality of the institutional framework for policy development, implementation and analysis. Given these challenges, Government efforts in the short to medium term will be directed towards measures that ensure efficient use of available resources, by setting priorities, as already seen in the first Five Year Development Plan 2011/12- 2015/16, and in the context of the Big Results Now! Initiative.
7.3 In conclusion, I believe that we have in Tanzania one of the best institutional set-ups for effective policy formulation and implementation. Yet, huge challenges remain in terms of human resource capacity relevant to the evolving national, regional and international spheres. Likewise, we remain with huge challenges in terms of financial resources to ensure full implementation of policies and ensure Government responds effectively and timely to peoples aspirations.
7.4 But we are well positioned, with a strong Public Service foundation, to gradually address these challenges. I am confident that many of these challenges will be resolved, even as new ones emerge. The most important thing is that we are a learning public service, not afraid to correct mistakes and ready to embrace new ideas.
With such an attitude, we will prevail.
I thank you.
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