PSMP – Transforming Public Sector Service

When the Government of Jamaica implemented the Public Sector Modernization Programme (PSMP) in 1996 it was with a vision to transform the public sector into one of which every Jamaican citizen could be proud, and today, the fruits of this initiative are evident across many institutions.
In a JIS News interview, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, Dr. Carlton Davis, explains that the modernization process was necessary because of recognition by the government as well as international agencies, of the need for an efficient and effective public service to meet the demands of citizens and visitors to the country. “People expected to see better service whether they went to the hospitals, or our schools, and other institutions in the public sector,” he says. As set out in the Public Sector Modernization Vision and Strategy 2002-2012, the objectives of the PSMP are: to confirm the role and core functions of government; improve the ways in which Jamaica is governed, through sharing the exercise of power and increasing participation in decision-making; promoting effective management through appropriate mechanisms, that expressly reflects government’s priorities; re-affirming the values of public service: stressing integrity, objectivity and accountability, and delivering high quality services to users at reasonable cost.
The modernization process also seeks to deliver high quality policy advice to the government; secure improvements through the establishment of a performance culture in the public sector; and value public servants and make sure that they are both motivated and properly equipped to meet challenges.
In his message contained in the Public Sector Modernization Vision and Strategy Ministry Paper, Dr. Davis says many reform initiatives in the past had not had the impact which had been expected because, among other things, they were ‘punctuated’ and that the government was determined to avoid this error in the future. To this end, the Public Sector Reform Unit (PSRU) was established as a permanent body in the Cabinet Office to provide leadership, coordination,and cohesion to the implementation and monitoring of the reform initiatives. The PSRU would drive forward the implementation of the agenda for modernizing government, improving the quality, coherence and responsiveness of public services and promoting a strong and professionally well-managed public sector capable of enabling and facilitating the achievement of the national goals. This unit was integrally involved in drafting the Plan of Action for the public sector modernization vision and strategy. Dr. Davis says the reforms that have emerged over the years have been “among the most sweeping in our public sector history”. He notes that there has been a marked, general improvement in customer service across the public sector. “This took various forms, such as the creation of Citizens’ Charters by various institutions, better attitudes, more pleasing environments, and so on,” he adds.
The Citizens Charter Programme was launched in 1994 and seeks to recognize the citizen as a customer, who is entitled to high quality service and whose interest comes first. More than 100 public sector organizationshave issued charters, according to Dr. Davis, while all Ministries and major departments are required to implement customer service improvement programmes aimed at raising standards. It is expected that by 2012, all public sector entities will commit to high quality services outlined in a service charter.
A Standards and Monitoring Unit was also established in the Cabinet Office to promote and monitor customer service improvement across the sector. Subsequently, Permanent Secretaries are required to report on improvements in customer service in their respective ministries as part of performance agreements. The Customer Service programme is guided by a set of minimum customer service standards, which all Ministries and Departments are required to adopt. To assist with training, the Management Institute for National Development (MIND) has, since 2001, been providing customer service courses.
The concept of ‘one stop’ shops has been critical to the modernization process, as customers were spending too much time accessing services, having to complete multiple forms, often requiring the same information.
Therefore, service delivery organizations have been structured around the needs of customers, with frontline staff given more authority to solve issues as they arise. In addition, processes, forms and layout of offices have been designed to make it easier for customers to carry out their business.
Importantly, technology has been used to link government entities, to provide seamless service. A number of agencies, such as the National Land Agency, the Inland Revenue Department, and the Jamaica Customs Department are now providing online services and information. These allow ease of access to carry out transactions, as well as the provision of general information, which before could only be accessed physically or by telephone.
Other reforms took the form of legislation, to improve standards in the public sector and tackle corruption. To this end, existing laws, such as the Corruption Prevention Act, have been strengthened, and new codes of conduct enacted.
Another important piece of legislation that was introduced was the Access to Information (ATI) Act, which was effected in January, 2004.
Then Information Minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman said the Act was essentially the enabling instrument for every Jamaican citizen, to access official documents as laid out in the Act. “Access protects and strengthens the right of citizens.when used appropriately, access empowers citizens by increasing their understanding of the workings of government, and by facilitating government accountability. It also encourages transparency of process and the observance of proper procedure on the part of government officials,” he states.
Meanwhile, Dr. Davis cites the creation of Executive Agencies as one of the major strategies and successes of the modernization programme. “There is no question that the executive agencies have been a success. It has been responding very constructively, despite limitations in physical and monetary resources,” he states.
Dr. Davis notes the transformation of the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) which he says, despite criticisms from time to time, is far improved, providing daily service of up to 22 hours. “The Child Development Agency, which is trying to integrate the actions by the state to protect our children, is also making progress,” he adds.
The Cabinet Secretary also highlights Management Institute for National Development (MIND), the Companies Office (formerly the Office of the Registrar of Companies) and the National Land Agency (NLA) as agencies that have “demonstrated that the reforms have been working”. He says that while there is still a lot to do, “when you compare the performance of these agencies in the past, there is no question that they have been successful. Generally speaking, you get better customer service all around. We did a telephone survey a couple years ago of a little over 1,000 people and 64 per cent gave the public sector a positive rating”.
Currently, there are eight executive agencies – Registrar General’s Department (RGD), Administrator General’s Department (AGD), Management Institute for National Development (MIND), Companies Office of Jamaica (CoJ), Jamaica Information Service (JIS), National Land Agency (NLA), National Works Agency (NWA) and the National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA).
Dr. Davis says that other agencies are slated to come on stream, including the Fisheries Department, because “the time has come to really put greater focus on the marine environment, which is after all in terms of total area much larger than our land area”.
Also, the Immigration and Naturalization Department (Passport Office) will go the Executive Agency route during this fiscal year. “It (the Passport Office) is very important to our citizens living here and in the Diaspora, across the world,” he says.
The PSMP will continue with its goals with the assistance of $827.3 million, which has been allocated in the national budget for this fiscal year. During the year, the programme will seek to implement modernization plans for the Ministry of National Security and put in place new organizational structures to support improved performance management at the Island Traffic Authority, the Ministry of Education and Youth, and the Forestry Department. Implementation of modernization plans will see the establishment of five additional performance-based institutions over the next two years. In addition, a customer service monitoring framework is to be established; policies, programmes and projects prioritization framework should be finalized; and some 2,000 public sector employees will be offered training in critical areas.
“We have set new bars and the society, once it gets used to these new bars, expect better performance, so we can’t rest on our laurels.much more emphasis will be placed on performance management, and how well people have done in terms of the objectives that have been set, and how do we ensure that we keep (up) the pressure, for better performances,” Dr. Davis asserts.

JIS Social