May 11, 2012

Reinvigoration of the Public Sector

Re-invigoration of the Public Sector
I do not mean re-engineering or even re-structuring. Maybe all we need is merely to invigorate the government system in order for it to achieve the maximum efficiency that is expected of it.

We have tried such modes of re-invention as re-engineering and re-structuring, at great cost in time and money, and yet improvements have not been substantial or palpable. The public continues to languish in long queues every time a license or a passport is needed. Bribes are ever pernicious, and even more open today, like it is not anymore a secret that should be tucked inside the pocket or a key thrown into the deepest ocean.

Sadly today, the public continues to encounter lazy faces of public servants seemingly tired of their day job and daydreaming of life in beaches almost all day long. At the slightest error, the public who is merely seeking public service get squirmed at by those who are especially employed by the government in order to serve the public, and in order that the common person have the convenience that the government owes them.

What is the aim of the public sector now? This is one vital question that should be addressed before everything can be settled. Is the public servant merely holding position just in order to make a living? He or she should rather be selling vegetables or meat in the market, at least thereat, there would be wider potentiality for the improvement of wealth. Nobody could really get rich in the government service, even serving for a long time.

Is the public servant merely holding position for social status and pride? He or she would rather be joining pageants and spectacles on television, for he or she would be known better there.
The public office is a public trust. This dogma had even been institutionalized in our most fundamental set of laws – our Constitution – and this is most encompassing of all, where no one should be allowed to forget the essence of public service, which is in order to serve thepeople, and not merely for self aggrandizement.

In view of the foregoing issues, therefore it is but time to realigned our views about the public sector, starting from the people within it. That for every employee of the government, whether national or local, every time he or she sees an individual, riding a Mercedes Benz or wearing no shoes and in tattered clothes, it should not matter, because that person, whether rich or poor, famous or unknown, is the very public sector he or she is aimed to serve.

In this manner, improvement of government service and the government system could be initiated, entering its nascent stages.

Despite the improvements in work environment, like air-conditioned areas, new buildings, expensive vehicles and increase in pay and bonuses, government service remains the same old horse, who is lackluster in movement, lacks dynamism and most of all, deficient towards its main aim of serving the public dutifully and with vigor. The government remains a system that is prone to stagnation and inefficiency, misappropriation, abuse of authority and lack of direction.

We have tried re-engineering the government system in the past and yet even the best re-engineers couldn’t tame the wild river that is the Philippine government system. Maybe we need a rocket scientist for this. We have tried re-structuring but even if our re-structurers could build a pyramid or an Eiffel Tower out of a molehill, the government system remains an ancient nipa hut.
Maybe it’s time that we should try re-invigoration.

It’s not as complicated to do as re-structuring does or as expensive as a re-engineering would demand. It only takes will, political will and cooperation from the people in the system. There are a number of factors that would be put in focus in this aim of putting the government service in the right track, one is leadership, two is awareness, three is competition, four incentive, and five public choice.
In LEADERSHIP, I mean to say political leadership. When we all almost agree that politics and the bureaucracy could not really be separated and is intertwined almost all the time, leadership becomes a most important factor in putting vigor and integrity back into the government service. In choosing our political leaders, especially in the next election activities in the coming years, the people should now aim for leaders who have proven capacity to lead and carry an entire workforce towards the improvement of service. It starts with the people then. If the electorate fails in the first place to change our leadership from the highest level, towards the root level, then re-invigorization ofthe government system would remain an illusion.

AWARENESS is two-pronged, first there should be awareness or a high level of consciousness among our public servants that their holding of their respective positions is not meant for self-aggrandizement alone, as a form of livelihood above all, but in order to serve the public well, and this should become a passionate and patriotic mission in every individual that would be integrated into the government service. Secondly, there should be similar level of awareness as to the PUBLIC being the CLIENT that the government is aimed to served, (the private sector prefer to call them CUSTOMERS) and the government system is aimed at primarily serving the needs of the CLIENT, that when the client is dissatisfied, public service becomes irrelevant and inefficient in every sensible sense possible. The CLIENT becomes the reason for existence, without it, there is no public service in the first place. This way, every client that enters the halls of a government office should be served well, for the moment that no one would anymore enter the halls of government offices, is just about the time that public service should eradicated.
COMPETITION could be injected into the public sector so that improvement of service could pertain. If the public could be given a choice as to the locus of a better service that they are necessitating, then every public servant would aim to proffer the better form or kind of service. This would entail privatization or semi-privatization of some government agencies or giving the public more stake in the government system, where there is increased community involvement in public service. Competition would entail the heightened accountability and responsibility factor, where the government service would become directly accountable towards the community, that there is really not one that is indispensable, that the public would always have a better place to go when someone in the public sector doesn’t want to serve the people anymore, but only wants to receive salaries and bonuses. This is where PUBLIC CHOICE comes. This element of re-invigorization is the most complicated of all, but it could be done through medium term action plan, like say five years in the process, incrementally achieved by phases. And of course, this would entail a more detailed document and methodology.

Competition also would bring forth to the adjustment of tenures in public service where at present, there is that seemingly extreme bias in favor of security of tenure, so extreme that even if a public servant would go to his or her work in drag and sleep all day, the government system could not take him or her away, resulting to mass demoralization and low-level performances. Public service should straightened out its merit system that only a good performance could lead to promotions and increase in compensation, that not one indispensable that for whenever a publicservant does not want to serve the public anymore, as expected of him or her, then other more competent or more able individuals from theworkforce should be recruited in his or her stead.
INCENTIVES of course remains a very important element, just like in re-structuring or re-engineering, that for every PUBLIC CHOICE of a government service, the better service would gain performance incentives, such as quota bonuses for a certain level unit of work, like for example if this government cashier had served 100 clients in a day, then performance credits and bonuses would inure or if this inspector had visited more areas or locations in a month than all the rest, he or she receives a hefty amount. It could be done in a larger scale that for example if this government agency branch had performed well in a particular year, more than the others in the same field, the whole workforce of that branch would get bonuses and be lauded with publicacclaim. They do that in private sector, that’s why the private sectorhad been able to build the grand Makati skyline over the years, and is establishing another in Fort Bonifacio and in Ortigas, aside from the busting urban scene in Cebu and Davao, and they do not receive any subsidy from taxpayers, unlike the government service system.
The private sector had not been fraught with issues of grand corruption because employees in the private sector do not attain such level of indispensability like that in the public service, where those who performed well are credited well and remain in the service for long, while those who are lackluster and lack integrity in work is taken out of the system. And besides, if one reaches a managerial or administrative level in the private sector, one is assured of hefty compensation that is why, in recent years, managers and executives of private companies have been able to increased sales in dramatic proportions. There are a lot of things that the government service could learn from the private sector in terms of methodologies, form of work structure, incentive system, recruitment and promotion system, tenures of employees, work ethics and level of competency and most of all in their treatment of the CLIENT, which they often call as the CUSTOMER.
In public service, the CLIENT may not always be right, but for certain they are the reason for being. A population that is served better by thegovernment, in terms of public service—- like education, licenses, security of food, public order and safety, health and welfare, livelihood opportunities, housing, job placements, communication and technology, etc.—- is a population that can make a better government and thereon, a more vibrant State.

(from one of the paper I submitted for my MPA degree)

May 02, 2012

Caveman 2007

(A story from 2007)
By tomorrow or a day after that, as I am estimating in my mind, I might be packing my bags and bundle some important things as I would be heading for some place else, somewhere that I have been to before but somewhere not many have seen yet or have known previously.
I have decided to leave the city for good. This plan had been in my mind for sometime now and I must assure you that this very drastic move on my part is far from being hasty—-in fact it is to be done with very deep contemplation and scheming that I have etched in my mind for so long now.
I have learned before how to drive nails effectively into wood and I reckon now that I have learned such task fairly well. My grandfather used to do some carpentry work and I used to have observed him so closely doing woodwork when I was so little, putting in mind every phase of the activity, from handling so tightly the wood to be nailed and towards the part when finally the nail is about to be hammered with reasonable precision, or else the hands would be greatly harmed.
Some of my uncles are pretty good too at this kind of work that I would have no doubt that I could do it by myself, hammering nails into wood. By that, I can safely assume that I’d be able to put up a small wooden shelter all by my lonesome when I get to the place that I am planning to go as of this moment. I’ll have thatches as roofs because many have opined how it would help ensure a cooler indoor environement, especially in rural environment. Having thatches as roofs is also one situation that I have been in before, right about the time while I was so young and our family could not then afford a better place to live in, as my father then was just earning his take as a humble mailman. My mother used to tell us stories how my father—-who is a native of the far away Province of Tawi-Tawi—-couldn’t articulate so effectively the local chavacano (a broken Spanish) dialect being spoken here that in some days, while he was still learning the tricks of delivering somebody else’s letter to somebody else’s house, my mother would come along with him for she was far more proficient in the tongue spoken here and therefore could communicate more easily with the mail recipients and also was more familiar with streets names and baranggay locations here.
Now let us go back to this plan I am presently having in my mind—-no reminiscing for now. I really do have a particular place in my mind, one that is far from the honky-tonky noise of the city streets. It is a place near or at the heel of a very prominent mountain known here as the Pulongbato, a stony mountain whose fa├žade is so majestic that it could be seen from any point in the city, from east coast and west coast, from south side and perhaps in some part of north side. It is so strong and mighty like an honorable beast that have decided to sleep for a thousand years and still sleeping as I write now.
Below this mountain is a gushing river and a forest so lush that when years ago I was trekking this area with a number of friends from college, I have almost stepped over a striped multi-colored snake, climbed two small waterfalls, fell from a low cave wall and fell into cool river water, trotted into knee deep gushing water to reach a giant stone in the middle of the river and smoked to my heart’s delight as twilight had enveloped the forest, while the trees slept humming like old warriors, and had even eaten eels we caught from a calmer area of the river. Nature is so varied there, and so abundant too.
I reckoned that while I am there, I would ensconce myself in the warm embrace of Nature as Nature would show me a beauty that I have seen before but still looking for since then. I won’t go thirst there for the river that runs through it is so crystalline like diamonds in our hands. And I won’t go hungry either for even sweet bananas—-as I remember all too well now—-grow so wildly and I bet the rich river-ways contains fishes that becomes so scrumptious as roasted on a brimming campfire, and the smell coming from it would just be gorgeously sublime. Out there, there’d be no time to keep up and catch up with. Industrial fumes are of no issue and the crazy sound of rushing vehicles won’t bother me no more. Could this plan of mind work? What do you think?
I had wondered deeply if ever my family would follow me there even if things wouldn't be as easy in a sense that there’d be no school there, no fast food to drive-by and order hamburgers and fried chickens. There’d be no education to attain there, and then no occupation to profess. And there’d be no roads to where we could drive our humble car. So perhaps, that small car would have to stay undriven for so long, or for eternity most possibly.
Could I say to them that we could have our own education there? That we can be teachers and students by ourselves? Nature is by itself an education and I can sense that it’d be an education that is similarly worthwhile, if not more propound. But I don’t think I could explain this to them efficiently and sell them the wisdom hidden beneath this idea.
And the air, yes the air there is so fresh that once I had thought of putting them in a bottle and sell it as pure purified mountain air, just like what they do to water nowadays. I have read once or had seen in a television show how in some part of Japan, air or the purified version of it had been contained by some enterprising souls there and had raked in some money for it.
The noise there could be so minimal that often, the chirping of birds and the momentary shrieks of monkeys coming from tall shrubberies far beyond becomes calming to the senses and it is certainly the best anti-dote for stress and worry that most urban dwellers suffer and that for sure, it is a situation so ideal for those who long for peace of mind so desperately and to those who seek ultimate freedom from anxiety. Long walks in the mountain side would be a luxuriant activity and sipping hot coffee beside a cool rushing water, while the sun is just about to set into the horizon, is not a far-off idea anymore.
Ooops, I just heard City Hall’s siren wailing and it’s about time for me to go and bring my third son Yuri to school. And by the way, I was just daydreaming a while ago and none of the plans narrated here is to be carried out any time soon.