Many African Countries have implemented several development theories and approaches that include modernization, colonization, nationalism, structural adjustment programs etc.
Of late many countries in Africa have undertaken public sector reforms often following the NPM principles. Those related to NPM could be classified as (a) reforms in the organizational set up and structures, including decentralization of political and administrative powers to the local government (b) market reforms whereby the state is rapidly engaging in business with the private sector but retains the responsibility for overall provision and (c) reforms in the management strategy that involve capacity building, contracting human resources, reducing employees numbers and decompressing wages, and performance management and measurement. However, it has been argued that the dominance of NPM has declined or dead for that matter (Dunleavy).
The 1980s have been viewed as a ‘lost decade’ for Africa. As a consequence, NPM is being replaced by new value laden paradigms such as those focusing on whole government issues, Neo-Weberian state reforms aimed at reaffirming the role of the state, collaborative governance such as PPPs and the good governance ideas where governments improve themselves, become reliable, accountable and responsive to solving societal problems and protecting the citizens.
Public Sector Reforms in Uganda are a norm and they have been necessitated by natural disasters, military defeats, civil disturbances, and many times motivated by economic crisis.
Increasingly however, reforms have been a result of power politics in action because they contain ideological rationalizations, fights for control of areas, services and people, participants, power drives, campaign strategies, obstructive tactics, compromises and concessions.
Public Sector Reforms usually take place when ‘a significant discrepancy exists between what it is doing and what it “ought” to be doing exists. Again it has been found that much of the public sector reforms activities have been supported by donors over the past 20 years in the following areas:
(i) Administrative capacity building (organizational restructuring and renewal, strengthening of linkages between government agencies, improving the quality of human resources through training and recruitment, addressing management problems related to employee performance management)
(ii) Strengthening policy capacity (rationalizing and standardizing the decision-making process and improving the flow of policy-relevant information)
(iii) Institutional reform (support for civil service codes of conduct and strengthened safeguards concerning public procurement strengthening institutions and procedures that act as an accountability check on the executive, and rules related to public access to information) and
(iv) Civil service downsizing (workforce size reductions, compensation schemes, and wage policy reforms).
We see reforms being implemented in: security, education, economy, health, agriculture, public service and other sectors. The key reforms witnessed include:
downsizing retrenchments, mergers and recruitment freezes, eliminating ghost workers and decompressing wages and trying to use savings on recruitment to pay higher salaries to higher level managers with key skills
Constitutional reform was designed to democratize the national political system. The reforms aimed at redefining the role of government, rationalize and streamline Government structures, eliminate redundant staff, restructure management systems and incentive structures for improved performance in public service delivery.
Decentralization was designed to increase the powers of democratic participation of local authorities and their empowerment for self-determination
Liberalization and privatization was designed to reduce state control over the economy within the macroeconomic stabilization, adjustment framework and market-led competition
Within the health sector, for instance in Uganda there has been outsourcing items such as cleaning, laundry, catering, security, and maintenance. Did this improve health conditions of the population where we still see population outcries of poor health service delivery? There has been the urge to reduce civil servants with claims that the huge numbers are costly and not effective and actually by the mid-1990s sub-Saharan Africa had the lowest ratio of civil servants to population of any group in the world. Is this the good thing to do? Even todate Africa is still reforming and indeed the Public Service (1997-2002) is indicative of the identification of the short falls of the earlier reforms.
The effects of these reforms are yet to be fully understood and appreciated in relation to the performance of the Public Service and accountability to the citizens. The questions are which paradigm should guide public sector reforms and under what conditions? What realities trigger a given reform? These questions are relevant given the complexity of the African continent, traditions, culture and political economy.
The international conference on governance and service delivery in developing economies provides an opportunity to answer some of these questions. The public Sector Reform theme give you space to discuss issues of managerialism and public administration local governance and development, public finance management, CSOs role in local governance, human resources development, managing cross-boder human resources, multiple public service modalities, public manger, public interests Vs mercerization of economics, local economic development, procurement management and network governance and role of the private sector
Come and discuss what works for Africa
Dr. Maria Barifaijo Kaguhangire
Senior lecturer, School of Management Sciences
Uganda Management Institute