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Public Administration

Address By President James Alix Michel To The Chief Executives' Forum Thursday 3rd March 2011

Fri, 04 March 2011

ADDRESS BY
 PRESIDENT JAMES ALIX MICHEL
TO THE CHIEF EXECUTIVES’ FORUM
Thursday 3rd March 2011
 
Ministers
Chief Executives
It gives me great pleasure to address you this morning at the start of the first meeting of the Chief Executives Forum for 2011.
In my State of the Nation address last Friday, I spoke of the importance of an effective public service which addresses the needs of citizens. Over the last two years we have undertaken a wide range of public sector and public administration reforms with the aim of streamlining government, separating policy making from policy implementation, creating new agencies and institutions, delegating responsibility with proper accountability, and other measures aimed at promoting good governance at all levels.
However, structural reform alone cannot guarantee good governance unless the people who run our public institutions are competent, dedicated, hardworking, results-oriented, and most importantly, immersed in a culture of service to all its clients, especially the public.
It would be unfair of me to judge the efficiency of the public service based only on the number of complaints that my office receives everyday from citizens who demand a better service.  I am aware that many public officers are committed and work hard to give of their best, and that customers can also be very demanding.  But for me even one complaint is one too many, and no complaint should be left unanswered.
I am also told that service delivery in the private sector is not much better than that in the public service.  But unlike the private sector, which is accountable largely to itself, our public sector is answerable to the people of Seychelles.  Besides, Government and the public sector must lead by example in every respect.
The reasons for poor performance at the individual employee’s level are varied - negligence, incompetence, inadequate work systems, lack of coordination, inadequate communication,  negative attitudes, to name a few.  Many of these can be addressed through better supervision, regular performance appraisals and reward management systems.  However there are also deeper underlying causes that go beyond the individual worker, and are related to organisational structures, capacity building, and leadership.
I am convinced that further improvements in public service delivery can only come about through proper staff development at all levels.  For this reason, Government has set aside SR10M over the next five years for public service training at the Seychelles Institute of Management. I am therefore happy to note that the first agenda item for discussion at this morning’s meeting is indeed the proposed SIM programme of training for Chief Executives and others.
I want every Chief Executive to be personally committed to staff development in his or her organisation, including a commitment to professional self-development and excellence at all levels.
As Chief Executives, the success of each of your Organisations depends ultimately on you. You, in turn, rely on the resources available to you, including your staff, to ensure that your organisation delivers on its assigned functions.  Your staff cannot perform efficiently unless they share and understand the vision and goals that you have set for them.  It is your responsibility to ensure that your organisations are properly structured to achieve their objectives, and that your staff have received the necessary training to undertake their responsibilities effectively. It is your role to establish proper systems of work, supervision and performance management, in order that hard work is recognised and rewarded, and mediocrity is eliminated.
A lot of effort has been made towards the improvement of salaries and reward systems in the public service. This can only get better as the economy improves, and productivity grows.  In simple economic terms, to earn more, we need to produce more.
It is also worth noting that research undertaken in the United States showed that 89% of employers thought that staff left their organisations for reasons related to money. But the same study indicated that 80% to 90% of the employees in fact left organisations for reasons related to their job, their manager, or the work environment.
It is the responsibility of leaders to provide enabling environments in which their staff are not only productive but also enjoy job satisfaction.  Everyone needs to feel that his or her contribution is recognised and counts to the success of the organisation.
If we are to improve performance in the public service, it is necessary to first define acceptable standards or benchmarks of public service, against which performance can be compared, and corrective action taken where necessary.
It would also be revealing for Government to undertake a public service satisfaction survey to identify which services are being well-delivered, and which are most in need of improvement.
I also want to emphasise that as Chief Executives, it is also your responsibility to regularly communicate to the public, through personal contact, through newsletters, or through the general media, relevant information about the services that you provide, the projects you are undertaking, and about the constraints and opportunities that you face, and how the clients or customers of your service can help you to help them better.
Good public relations are extremely important for customer satisfaction, and for managing expectations.  You should not only appeal to the media when a problem has already arisen, and you are then perceived to be on the defensive, and the good work you do everyday is forgotten. You have to be proactive.
When customers and the public have access to clear documentation about policies, the functions and structure of your organisation, about the services you provide, about how applications for various services are processed, about time frames, and about your standards of service delivery, you will not only improve transparency, but you will also have a more satisfied clientele, and you will spend less time having to explain everything from scratch to each applicant.
The other point I wanted to emphasise is that no Agency operates in isolation.  As Chief Executives, it is your role to ensure that you keep your colleagues informed about developments in your sector, especially where these link up with other Agencies.  There is always synergy in working collectively towards common goals.
I also understand that some of you need to operate in very competitive environments and therefore need the space and flexibility required to ensure maximum output and efficiency.
Before concluding, I would like to say a few words about collective responsibility.  As Chief Executives, and members of this Forum, you have the privilege of expressing your opinions as freely and frankly as you wish within this Forum, so that recommendations that you make are well-informed, and take into account the full range of views expressed.
Once recommendations have been considered by the Government, and a decision on a particular issue is conveyed, we must publicly support that decision, even if the decision does not always reflect our personal perspective on an issue.  This is what is known as collective responsibility.  It is what I expect of my Cabinet of Ministers, and it is also what I expect of you, as Chief Executives.
I follow the deliberations of this Forum closely, not only through perusing the minutes of your deliberations, but also through my contacts with individual Chief Executives.
I always welcome your feedback, your suggestions and criticisms, with regard to matters of your specific areas of responsibility, and on national development in general. Our Government is a listening Government. We should all be good listeners, sensitive to the needs of our clients and the public. We should not be irritated by criticism we receive; on the other hand, let us use the feedback to improve our services.  Never forget - our customers and our clients are the reason we are here.
I would like to thank all Chief Executives for their hard work, even in sometimes difficult circumstances. The last two years have not been easy, but with your dedication and support we have worked hard to put our country on the road to progress and prosperity. Now the world is behind us. We must continue to secure our gains and achieve more victories for our country and our people. Thank you for your support, and for your contribution. I am grateful to you all.
I shall conclude with a quotation from Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do, so excellence is not just an act, it is a habit. Let us all make excellence a habit in everything that we do, and in every service that we provide.  Let excellence permeate our public service so that it truly inspires the confidence and trust of all our citizens.
Let us work together as Chief Executives, to continue winning for Seychelles.
Thank you.

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