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Effective April 1, 2006, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Works, as well as some other Permanent Secretaries will be asked to assume responsibility for managing the financial resources of their respective ministries.
“It is expected at that time that from the application of the Ministry’s recurring budget, to the appointment and establishment of the staff complement (this) would be managed at the ministry level by the Permanent Secretary, for certain levels of staff,” Dr. Alwin Hales, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Works disclosed.
Dr. Hales, in an interview with JIS News, pointed out that under this new system, some of the work currently being done by the Establishment Division in the Ministry of Finance and Planning will be delegated to the Permanent Secretary.
“So we would set staff levels and within a broadband and we would set salary levels and hopefully it will put us in a better position to attract the quality of staff members that are required on an ongoing basis to keep us up to date and to make us able to cope with delivery of service in the global environment,” he explained.
Dr. Hales informed however, that the new provisions would not be implemented without constraints.
“There will be constraints on the bottom-line of the budget, and there will be constraints as far as government regulations and guidelines are concerned,” he advised.
According to the Transport and Works Permanent Secretary, this latest proposal is another aspect of the public sector modernisation process whereby Government is seeking to improve the way its agencies and entities dispense their services, simultaneously reducing central control and delegating authority to Permanent Secretaries by utilising the principles of the Public Sector Modernisation Programme (PSMP).
In the Ministry of Transport and Works and many other ministries, the process of delegating more responsibilities to the Permanent Secretary started in December 2004 when they were charged with responsibility for some human resource functions.
“In some ministries, and in our ministry in particular, the Permanent Secretary has delegated authority to hire, authority for appointment, authority for dismissal and authority for disciplining and training staff,” Dr. Hales informed. This power he said, “demystifies the whole human resource management process to staff members” and as a result, the ministry functions better.
Sharon Callen, Organisational Specialist in the Cabinet Office, explained that the intention was to “increase delegation of human resources functions to Permanent Secretaries, to include responsibility and authority to classify positions within a very well-defined framework.”
“The hope is to delegate classification of positions as well as changes in remuneration and compensation within this framework,” Mrs. Callen told JIS News.
The Cabinet Office in collaboration with the Public Services Commission, the Ministry of Finance and Planning as well as a number of other entities is currently developing this framework, she added.
Providing more background on the initiative, Mrs. Callen explained that a major objective of public sector modernisation was the continued creation of performance-based institutions (PBIs) or Executive Agencies, with the structures, systems, processes and internal capacity to efficiently and effectively deliver services to clients. “The major element of this is moving away from line-management budgeting to output-focused budgeting,” Mrs. Callen said.
What this means is that an agency or a ministry would be granted a budget from the Finance Ministry with the understanding that they would be committed to producing stipulated results or outputs within the context of each financial year. The outputs are documented, usually within the Corporate and Operational Plans – the Operational Plan is a one-year plan, and the Corporate Plan is a much longer one, usually about three years.
This also forms the context for the delegation of increased responsibility and authority for the management of both the human and financial resources of any ministry or agency.
Mrs. Callen informed JIS News that the Ministries of Transport and Works and Land and Environment were selected for modernisation primarily in relation to their core policy, corporate planning and development functions. However, she noted that while there were plans to continue the modernisation of the Ministry of Transport and Works by making more of its portfolio agencies, Executive Agencies, plans were also underway to transform the core ministry into a performance-based institution.
“The focus of that ministry should be less on operations and more on policy. It should be focused primarily on policy; policy that will guide the operations of the agencies within its portfolio, as well as the evaluation of the achievements of these agencies within the context of the policy framework,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Organisational Specialist informed that the success and effectiveness of this pilot initiative would determine how and when it would be extended to other government ministries.
“It would depend on how successfully we implement [this system] in the pilot ministry and what sort of issues are raised to the fore during the process of piloting this part of the delegation,” Mrs. Callen stated.
Thus far, the government’s efforts at modernising the public services have accrued considerable gains with respect to improved customer service, greater transparency and accountability, increased productivity, savings and revenues.