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JIS News

The 2007/08 fiscal year saw the Public Sector Modernization Division (PSMD) in the Office of the Cabinet undertaking significant work to strengthen and reform the institutional framework of several Government ministries and agencies.
The activities formed part of the continuation of work carried out between 1996 and 2003 under the World Bank-funded Public Sector Modernization Programme (PSMP), which saw performance-based institutions (PBIs) being established. That initial undertaking saw some eight entities becoming Executive Agencies, including: Registrar General’s Department (RGD); the Administrator General’s Department; the Management Institute for National Development (MIND), and the Companies Office of Jamaica, effective April 1, 1999.
Meanwhile the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), the National Land Agency (NLA), the National Works Agency (NWA), and Jamaica Information Service (JIS), commenced operations as Executive Agencies on April 1, 2001.
An Executive Agency is a semi-autonomous government entity, which, while remaining a part of government, has responsibility for its own management and performance. Central control of the organization is reduced and authority delegated to an appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO), who has full autonomy over management of the entity’s financial and human resources. The CEO is also responsible for performance targets, developed and agreed on with the responsible Permanent Secretary/Minister.
Consequent on the work undertaken, the number of Executive Agencies currently in operation has increased to nine, with the addition of the Passport, Immigration and Citizen Agency (PICA) to the list. PICA evolved out of the transformation to executive status of the Immigration Citizenship and Passport Division of the Ministry of National Security. The transformation is intended to bolster and strengthen the security mechanisms, which were in place prior to the establishment of PICA, which plays a pivotal role in the nation’s security.
Chief Technical Director of the PSMD, Hilary Alexander tells JIS News that the Unit “succeeded in transforming the Passport, Immigration and Citizen Agency” during 2007/08, adding that work was also undertaken on other entities during the period.
“A significant amount of work has been done with the Forestry and Fisheries departments, (which) should be the next set of Executive Agencies (created); those will be set up in 2008/09,” Mrs. Alexander says.
Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Carlton Davis underscores the importance of restructuring and positioning those departments as Executive Agencies.
“Forestry and Fisheries might not be looked at in (an) everyday way as being cutting edge departments. But, both are very important, one from the point of preservation of our environment, and the other from the point of preservation of the marine area (which) represents a far greater area than our land area. And it is widely acknowledged that our management of the fisheries industry is not really first class. So (transformation to) the executive agency model is an approach in this (effective management) direction,” Dr. Davis outlines.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Alexander adds that: “involved in all of this is a certain level of legislative review. Forestry is one of the key areas, and the more we focus on our environment as a key issue for Jamaica, (the more) the Forestry Department, in particular, becomes very critical in terms of sustainable development for the country.”
The period also saw work aimed at modernizing some government ministries continuing, primarily the Ministries of National Security, and Education, which Mrs. Alexander discloses, are to be transformed into policy-focused Ministries.
Regarded as key to the government achieving its national strategic goals, both directly and indirectly, the National Security Ministry’s transformation process has already seen the completion of its modernization and medium-term financing plans, and framework document. A timetable for implementation of same is being developed.
Regarding the Education Ministry, Mrs. Alexander discloses that the Unit has been “working assiduously” to provide support for development of its policy-based framework.
“We will be moving into the setting up of some of the support entities and actually implementing some of the recommendations that have been accepted or are to be accepted in the whole education sector,” the PSMD Executive points out.
The recommendations, proposed by the Task Force on Education Reform, relate to efforts by the government and other key stakeholders to create a world class education system; facilitate access to education, and equity among those seeking to access same; raising the standard for all persons, thereby producing disciplined, ethical, and culturally aware Jamaicans, who would be able to position Jamaica to be competitive in the global economy.
Additionally, Mrs. Alexander says that preliminary work has been done with the National Public Health Laboratory, and within the Cabinet Office where she says “we are currently implementing some of the recommendations for the strategic review.”
She says the Unit also supported the review of the justice sector, adding that it would continue to “support the Ministry in implementing some of those reforms and organizational initiatives that were recommended.”
To date, the Ministry of Transport and Works is the first and only Ministry to be transformed into a PBI, in this case a policy-based ministry. This effectively means that the Ministry’s focus is now primarily on policy development, monitoring, and evaluation, and setting standards for the performance and evaluation of its agencies.
Dr. Carlton Davis discloses that, more recently, the Unit had been asked to examine rationalization measures that could be implemented within the public sector. This, he explains, includes effecting mergers where feasibly possible, thereby addressing the matter of entities that have “been on the block for some time for abolition.”
“It doesn’t give a good picture of these entities, if it has already been agreed that they should be abolished, that they should remain on the books. Whilst it is not a specific responsibility of the Cabinet Office, we are doing some work in this regard,” he says.
Dr. Davis advises that the Unit is looking at “possible mergers” on which it needs to do basic work to determine the feasibility of such a move as well as how quickly these can be effected.
“We’ll be looking at the possibility of (merging) the National Health Fund (NHF) and Health Corporation Limited (HCL) to see what rationalization can be effected for these two entities. We have (also) been asked to look at whether Jamaica Bauxite Mining, and Bauxite and Alumina Trading Company (BATCO), could be merged into one. Currently, they are, really operating (with) one board, and one staff, so it would not be a particularly difficult exercise. But there are some legal issues that we would have to look at,” Dr. Davis outlines.
Another major area, which Mrs. Alexander says is being worked on, is the development approvals process. The ultimate aim of this undertaking, she points out, is to achieve a 90-day turnaround time for the development approvals process.
“There are (however) a number of institutional legislative regulatory issues that underpin all of that, and we have been doing considerable work on an IT (Information Technology) audit and seeing what business processes are going to be reengineered to be able to put in a tracking system,” Mrs. Alexander informs.
She says that her Division has been working with the Local Government unit in developing forms and processes for implementation in order to establish standard procedures, formats, and timelines for development approvals so as to “remove the discretion of how things are done.”
Dr. Davis points out that one of the things being pursued in the modernization programme is to have “some sort of division of labour between centres where policy is formulated, monitored, and evaluated, and centres where policies are implemented.”
“So you want that Ministry to have a strong policy centre that can analyze what the policy options are, present them with the cost and benefits, etc. And then you want other agencies to implement the policies once they have been approved. So part of this strengthening of the capacities of ministries is you don’t want just want the ministry to be another, sort of, part policy part implementing agency. But (rather) a strong policy agency that can analyze, very critically, what are the policy options and put them out for people to take decisions ,” the Cabinet Secretary states.
Ultimately, Mrs. Alexander points out, the overall aim is to provide better service to the citizens of the country.
“What we are trying to do is roll out a number of structures upon which the ministries and agencies can draw, (so) that they can build their programmes. Also to strengthen their capacity to monitor those agencies that report to them. The issue is really how to get better outcomes for each sector and one of the other areas is to look at corporate governance, so that we get away from each ministry planning for itself against a particular set of targets. But rather looking at what are the overall outcomes that government is supposing to be producing,” she informed.
In this regard, Mrs. Alexander said the issue of strategic planning becomes far more important as also establishing necessary linkages across sectors in order to improve the planning and delivery of programmes.