Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Public Service

(Part IV)

Last week, we had stated that the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Public Service, which was laid in the National Assembly on 24 May 2016, would have been debated by the Assembly. However, that debate has since been postponed to a later date.

So far, we have completed our review of the first two chapters of the report and we began an examination of Chapter 3 on training and staff development. accountability-watchThe highlight of last week’s article was the statement of the Commission indicating that it became aware of the dissatisfaction with the way the process is managed, the abandonment of the Selection Committee and the lack of transparency and fairness in the selection of awardees. Accordingly, it has recommended the Barbados model for Guyana where a Committee of Permanent Secretaries from the key Ministries under the Chair of the Head of the Public Service meet to consider candidates for overseas fellowships and scholarships.

Today, we complete our examination of Chapter 3 on training and staff development.

Identification of training needs

The Commission considered that the training initiatives currently undertaken in many Ministries are of a routine nature and reflect good housekeeping practice. These include courses, seminars, training programmes, on and off-the-job training at all levels of the organisation. However, they do not necessarily reflect the best contribution to the continuing well-being of Ministries and Departments for the future in the context of rapid changes in both the internal and external environments and the need to respond to those changes. In addition, the identification of training needs in Public Administration should be the prime responsibility of the Head of Departments and Ministries and the internal specialist trainer, as a prerequisite to good training management.

 

The Commission identified two levels of training in the Public Service:

(a)         training which is performed today, for today’s and tomorrow’s requirements; and

(b)         training which is yet to be started to meet the requirements of the near, middle, and long-term future.

 

In relation to the latter, reference should be made to national, long-term objectives and plans, human resources planning, and career development.  Training initiatives should therefore never be static but must reflect the changing environment within which the Public Service operates.

Status of the training function

The Commission felt that keeping the training and development function sufficiently in the picture can be problematic. Accordingly, it advocates an integrated management view, with top management placing a high premium and priority on the training function and having it placed  in the hands of Heads of Departments.

Training’ and ‘development

The Commission noted that the words ‘training’ and ‘development’ are frequently used side by side. For example, a person undergoing a three or four-year apprenticeship programme is in fact a development programme. Similarly, a potential Permanent Secretary undertaking a long training programme will also be placed in a range of work situations and responsibilities. At the end of the programme, he/she will not only develop technical training but may have also gained in human and organizational sensitivity and development.

A management development programme, like an apprentice programme, has a large ingredient of training and needs to be managed by senior management as part of their human resource management responsibilities, which also includes: (a) introduction and orientation to the working environment; and (b) supervision, counselling, appraising, inculcating a responsible work ethic, and work discipline.

Auditing of the training function

The Commission noted that there is a general demand for audit evaluation services in both public and private enterprises because of economic and social pressures for improving and attaining higher standards of performance and efficiency. It felt that this is also applicable to Public Administration training systems. The Commission referred to a 1984 publication “Managing the Training and Development Function” by Allan D. Pepper who views such an audit, with its connotations of rigour and objectivity, as a good one to study human resource assets and training systems beyond the day-to-day work of the training function and activities. However, the person selected for undertaking such a review must, have functional knowledge, investigatory capacity and analytic skills appropriate for the function or system to be audited.

According to the Commission, the audit may be requested for a part of the activities of a Department, Ministry or for the training activities of an entire Public Administration system.  It therefore recommended that the Department of the Public Service undertake an audit of the training and development function at least every five years to assess and evaluate the organization and delivery of training, and to recommend measures for improvement and efficiencies.

Public Service Staff College

The Commission indicated that it is aware of a proposal for the establishment of a Staff College to provide training for public servants. In this regard, it has provided a number of principles of training that could be helpful in its development. The Commission also noted that there are a number of agencies, such as the University of Guyana and other external agencies, that offer training. It expressed the view that it would be prudent that collaborative arrangements be put in put in place to ensure that they are not operating at cross purposes. Accordingly, the Commission has recommended that all public training agencies have a consultative arrangement to ensure that all Public Service training objectives are successfully achieved.

Other training imperatives

The Commission stated that it is aware of certain weaknesses especially in relation to leadership and management at the senior level and therefore feels that appropriate training interventions on an ongoing basis for senior management of the Public Service be undertaken. It emphasised that the Public Service needs to strengthen its leadership and management capabilities to achieve the results regarding strategic objectives and goals that are set for every Ministry/Department/Region. Staff at these levels must learn how to lead and manage to achieve the goals and targets they set in collaborate with the subordinate levels.

The Commission has recommended that: (a) leading and managing to achieve results must start with an understanding of the basic practices that enable work groups to face challenges and achieve results; and (b) the Public Service Management levels adopt the Leading and Managing for Results Model as described at Table I below.

The Commission felt that each Minister, Permanent Secretary, Manager, Head of Department and Supervisor must be able to blend effective leadership with good management and provide a systematic approach to helping their ‘teams’ identify challenges and desired measurable results. This is necessary to plan and implement priority actions to address root causes and eliminate obstacles that can hinder progress. In this regard, the process should start with reflections on leadership values such as: integrity and commitment; respect and trust; courage to take risks; continuous learning; involving and delegating; consistency with the Mission; and consistency between leaders.

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Leading involves enabling others to face challenges and achieve results under complex conditions. It consists of:Scanning: Managers have up-to-date valid knowledge of the organization and its context. They know how their behavior affects others;Focusing: The organisation’s work is directed by well-defined mission, strategy and priorities;Aligning/Mobilising: Internal and external stakeholders understand and support the organisation’s goals and have mobilized resources to reach these goals; and Inspiring: The organization displays a climate of continuous learning, and staff show commitment, even when setbacks occur.   Managing involves organizing the internal parts of the organization to implement systems and coordinate resources to produce reliable performance. It consists of:Planning: The organization has defined results, assigned resources, and an operational plan; Organising: The organization has functional structures, systems, and processes for efficient operations. Staff are organized and are aware of job responsibilities and expectations;Implementing: Activities are carried out efficiently, effectively, and responsively; and Monitoring and Evaluating: The organization continuously updates information about the status of achievements and results, and applies ongoing learning and knowledge.

I close with the words of Prof. Mervin King of South Africa on leadership:

I know from my executive days that if you get your strategy right and you get buy‐in, you get ordinary people to achieve the most extraordinary things! But if you don’t get it right and it doesn’t fit in with the milieu of the day, you can have the most extraordinary people, but you won’t even achieve ordinary things

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