The Government of Jamaica is making significant strides in transforming the public sector into a more efficient and effective organisation.
The most recent step in this regard is commencement of the pilot for the introduction of Shared Corporate Services (SCS) with two services – Internal Audit and Human Resource Management in February and March 2021, respectively.
Implementation of SCS, which is being spearheaded by the Transformation Implementation Unit (TIU), with support from consultants Ernst and Young (EY), seeks to consolidate certain administrative and support functions that are performed in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
The functions being moved into a shared arrangement are Human Resource (HR) Management; Internal Audit; Finance and Accounting; Procurement; Asset Management; Information and Communications Technology; and Public Relations and Communication.
By streamlining these actions, entities will be better able to focus on their core mandates and the attainment of their strategic goals.
Executive Director of the TIU, Maria Thompson Walters, tells JIS News that SCS in government administration “is not a new concept”, noting that prior to implementing it in Jamaica, research was carried out to determine how it was being practised by other countries.
“It was found that Canada and the United Kingdom (UK) have successfully implemented the SCS model in their respective public sector, with the one in the UK being the closest to what was designed for Jamaica,” she says.
EY Programme Manager for Jamaica’s SCS project, Steve Hodgson, tells JIS News that from his experience with other governments, particularly the UK, SCS “offers the Government an opportunity to spend more of the available resources on services delivered to the public, rather than consuming those resources in terms of servicing itself”.
Mr. Hodgson, who has spent 20 years contributing to the development of SCS in various organisations, says there are examples where SCS has been implemented successfully around the world, pointing to the Shared Service Centre in Newport, South Wales, an initiative of the Ministry of Justice in the UK, to which senior officials from the Government conducted a study tour.
“We implemented a new IT system and took the administrative work that was being done in 120 jails around the UK [and] brought those transactions into the Shared Service Centre in South Wales,” he shares.
He says the establishment of the Centre transformed the UK’s Prison Service, making it more efficient and effective in the delivery of its operations, including the recruitment and HR administration for more than 100,000 people.
“All the invoices –5,000 invoices per day – we paid from that Service Centre and the technology that paid the invoices provided automation,” he adds.
Mr. Hodgson further points out that it took three to four years to get the project rolled out and since then it has continued to progress.
For Jamaica, Ms. Thompson Walters notes that SCS will address efficiency gaps in the public sector. She cites HR as an example, whereby each MDA has its own unit or department providing services to staff, which ranges from being totally manual to semi-automated.
She uses the situation of obtaining a job verification letter to compare how a service in the Shared Services will be delivered, as opposed to what takes place in HR departments of MDAs.
“Based on the information we gathered from HR departments across the public service, it can take anywhere from two days to three weeks for job letters to be processed. However, when we measure that out as a service in the Shared Services, the turnaround time is within 24 hours,” Ms. Thompson Walters points out.
With the provision of HR services from the Shared Corporate Services Centre, employees will benefit from shorter processing times and better customer service.
According to Ms. Thompson Walters, SCS will also allow for the standardisation of processes across the public sector.
“What we have found is that because of broad interpretation, there are various ways of performing the same thing across ministries and departments, which leads to errors [and] in some instances these can be costly,” she says, adding that the existing bureaucratic and subjective bottleneck that often haunts public service delivery will be significantly thwarted.
Ms. Thompson Walters further indicates that technology is a key lever in the operations of the Centre.
“All of the shared services that we will provide in the future will be powered by technology. HR is being powered by My HR+, which is the HR management information system with payroll that we’re currently rolling out. The Procurement Shared Services will be powered by the procurement software that is currently in use in the public sector,” says Ms. Thompson Walters.
Additionally, the SCS Centre will make information and data more readily available that will assist MDAs to make decisions based on the services being offered.
“[This] allows MDAs to ensure that their functions are performed as efficiently as possible. Decisions taken will now be driven by information that is readily provided to them through data analysis,” Ms. Thompson Walters explains.
She indicates further that the Centre will provide opportunities for persons to work, as it “opens up new jobs [and] new professions that are not so explicit now in MDAs”.
Plans are in place to roll out Procurement and Payroll Shared Service pilots in the upcoming months.