Public Sector Reform

1031 words | 4 page(s)

Tasked with the responsibility of providing essential services to the people, governments all over the world realize the necessity to improve their overall effectiveness, efficiency and professionalism, transparency as well as inclusiveness. This purposeful improvement is initiated in public institutions and specifically targeting the civil service in the promotion of enhanced service delivery to the public, with increased accountability and commitment to democracy. Focusing on the case of Australia’s public sector reform, Podger (2007, p.1-2) indicates, increasing community expectations as well as power and pervasiveness of the media and global economic pressures, among others, as some of the factors driving the necessity for reform. The author further provides information on Australia’s reforms reinforced with critical questions of whether the reforms were too much or too little considering the costly relatively permanent changes that were made. This report compares and contrasts public sector reforms formulated in the United Kingdom (UK) and New South Wales (NSW) in relation to two major reform elements including outcomes and outputs as well as citizen engagement and empowerment.

The UK government proposed various public sector reforms in a white paper titled Open Public Services published in 2011 as well as an action plan titled the Civil Service Reform Plan published in June 2012 for concise directions on reforms implementation. On the other hand, the NSW Government published the NSW 2021 plan for public sector reforms on September 2011 and through the NSW Commission of Audit on May 2012, came up with a report on policies and direction on expenditures for public sector reform. Both the UK government’s white paper as well as the NSW 2021 plan, indicate a focus on engaging and empowering citizens in a variety of ways which will enhance provision of public services while also ensuring that citizens actively contribute positively to change. Specifically, the UK government’s (2011, p.14, 26-9) white paper, explicitly indicates a concerted effort by the government to empower and engage its citizens through direct and efficient service provision to the citizens as well as devolution of control of public services to the people. On the other hand, the NSW Government (2011, p.3) 2021 plans’ 32 goals also indicate a focus on empowering and engaging citizens by reducing overall cost of living, improving education and learning, involvement of communities in government policy decision making as well as enhancing access to vital information.

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The Civil Service Reform Plan by His Majesty’s (HM) government (2012, p.14) also seeks to engage and empower citizens by advocating for an open policy making where citizens are consulted on matters of public policy through a variety of ways like using ‘Policy Labs’. The focus on citizens and communities is also emphasized in the Final Report on Government Expenditure for public sector reforms by the NSW Commission of Audit (2012, p.24) where the goal is to empower citizens and engage them in initiating positive change in government. However, the UK government’s public reform documents seem to be more explicit in their focus on citizen empowerment and engagement compared to that of the NSW report and plan. The NSW report and plan focus more on rebuilding the country on a macro-level where empowerment and engagement of the citizens is achieved passively while the documents of their counterparts focus as much as they can in empowering the public. In terms of outcomes and outputs, the UK government’s (2011, p.14, 26-9) white paper, indicates the main goal for public sector reform as ensuring better-quality services which are more responsive to individual, community and national needs. The expected outcomes and outputs include better healthcare and education, among others which the Civil Service Reform Plan by His Majesty’s (HM) government (2012, p.7) indicates will be achieved through enhanced operational delivery and project implementation, among others.

The outcomes also apply to the NSW government’s public sector reforms which further include better services in transport, police and justice as well as family and communities (NSW Government 2011, p.3). Additionally, the outcomes remain the same as analysed from a government spending point of view, as expounded upon by the NSW Commission of Audit (2012, p.24) where advice on financial resource allocation is provided for directing public sector reform implementation. As such, all the documents anticipate positive outcomes and output ranging from better health and transport to education and justice through enhancement of efficiency, effectiveness and accountability, among other elements that will ensure better public service delivery. However, the documents indicate some points of differences that seem to work, to a certain extent, at cross purposes, like the UK government’s documents’ focus on devolving responsibility to the people while the other seeks to reform the civil service as the central principals. On the other hand, the NSW government’s documents indicate potential duplication of implementation activities in public sector reforms which may affirm what Bovaird & Loffler (2009, p.49) refers to as a ‘reform overload’ that is accompanied by costs involved in reform design and loss of time and energy, among others. Nonetheless, the documents, in themselves, seek to address potential weaknesses in the reform processes including through periodic evaluation and adaptation of reform documents, while using private sector best practices in management that are bound to enhance public service delivery.

The necessity for public sector reform continues to be important as citizens continue to expect more from governments like those of the UK and the NSW. The reports and plans on public sector reforms for these two jurisdictions are supported by government heads and other significant government representatives, seeking to reform all the major sectors from health and transport to education and justice, while incorporating all relevant stakeholders and resources. There is a unity of expected outcomes and outputs as well as in the reform element on citizen engagement and empowerment even though UK government documents focus more on citizen engagement and empowerment while the NSW government documents indicate a macro-level approach to government reform. Potential duplication of reform activities and split focus of reform indicate a possible ‘reform overload’ but the individual documents indicate efforts to ensure that such weaknesses are eliminated. As such, public sector reforms in the two jurisdictions and with regards to outcomes and outputs as well as citizen engagement and empowerment are generally similar but with small specific differences.

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