Distinguished President, Leadership and Staff of IMANI, Distinguished Heads and staff of all Public Sector MDAs, Excellency Swiss Ambassador, Other Invited Guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I want to start off by thanking the leadership of IMANI for the invitation to speak here today and as is Characteristic of mine, I will try to be as brief and direct as possible. More importantly I want to thank IMANI for instituting this award and for the kind sponsorship of the Swiss Embassy here in Ghana. I have often said 2 of the most effective ways to shape Professional Culture, whether around efficiency or delivering value to the public, whether in the Private or Public sector, is to have systems with 2 faces. A face that punishes irresponsibilities without fear or favour, and a face that delivers Praise and reward, for the achievement of results whether short term or long.
On that basis I wish to add my voice in congratulating the award winners for today - The National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Driver and Vehicle License Authority (DVLA), National Service Secretariat (NSS), Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Business Development. I’ll speak on The Benefits of Efficiency in the Public Sector
The formula for providing public goods and services to citizens and funding its provision is generally a simple one. The political will to adhere to that simple formula is what is often difficult for most governments.
Cost, Policy, Staffing, Systems to Deliver Public Goods & Services = Revenue Generated + Borrowing
The public will at all times require public services to be of a high quality, convenient, cheap and easily accessible; and the way most Governments keep the equation balanced is to as much as possible, Cut down on the cost of delivering public services or improve their Revenue Generation. However, where our domestic environment is characterised by increasing debts, consistently lower than planned revenue generation and high public sector costs – the ONLY way to balance the equation – is to focus on EFFICIENCY at all levels in the short term and on EFFECTIVENESS in the long term. Only then can we talk about VFM.
Getting More Out of every Cediis for me the definition of Efficiency that has to be adopted by our Public Sector across board. Our Decision-Making processes must ask the question How will this decision give more to the Ghanaian citizen out of every Cedi. Our Operations must ask the question How will our travelling procedure from requests to authorisation to whether first or economy class flight are selected, How will our recruitment procedures, this PPP project, this procurement procedure give more to the Ghanaian citizen out of every Cedi. The results delivered by the Public Sector must be measured and the question asked How do these results demonstrate that the Ghanaian citizen has gotten more out of every Cedi spent. In other words, efficiency only begins to have impact if it becomes a lived Culture.
The way to become and remain efficient in the face of minimal resources and higher demands from the public is to innovate. And permit me to add that the one thing we don’t do much which is cutting costs, in itself has been known to be a catalyst for instigating innovation – the trick however is that service delivery results have to be defined, measured and their achievements enforced. Innovation in the public sector is not necessarily about finding entirely New ways of delivering services to the public – it is equally about improving current ways of getting things done. Innovation must not only be about the Operations, Machinery and Procedures needed to deliver better public services – it must also be about the decision making processes – for example what efficiency is delivered to the Ghanaian by any Government’s decision to have an entirely new CSSPS developed while a previously paid for version was running; innovation must also be about how money is raised to deliver public services for example what is the standard pricing module for charges within our Public Hospitals or better still, how can we monetize indiscipline; and by all means innovation must cover how relationships with citizenry who receive services are managed – for example, why should citizens seeking to procure public services be asked to give something small or made to feel they are being done a favour.
This is why this report is crucial and I commend IMANI for it. It offers excellent learning on how some achieved efficiency through innovation and what can be done by others to achieve same. I am hopeful it will not be seen as fault-finding. In fact, some parts should be adopted into mainstream Public sector operations. Let me outline very quickly, just 3 benefits of chasing for efficiency in the Public Sector.
#1 BEDGETARY FLEXIBILITY: Grants from donors in the 2019 Budget is GhS 1.1 Billion
In the National Budget for 2017, 2018 & 2019, Government expenditure alone makes up at least 20% of our entire GDP as a country – it therefore means that any agenda to improve nationwide productivity must start with the Public sector. It also means that a minimal attempt at improving efficiency in the public sector is bound to have huge impacts on our Budgets. For example improved efficiency across the public sector that achieves just a 2% reduction in costs across board could possibly generate GhS1.4 Billion which will mean that Total expected Grants of 1.1Billion from Donors will not need to be on our Budget, and we would still have change of some GhS300 Million – that, in my view is a more sustainable way to achieve a Ghana Beyond Aid.
#2 REDUCTION IN SYSTEMIC CORRUPTION The practicality of embracing efficiency and procuring the innovation needed to achieve it, is that it forces organisations to focus their efforts on those policies, procedures, management and technology systems that add value to the final good or service that is delivered to the citizen. It doesn’t matter whether innovation takes the form of technological enhancements or not - any attempt to push for efficiency ie. Newer services or better ways of delivering existing ones will practically require that non-value adding bureaucracies are removed, procedures are simplified yet secure, waste and idleness are cut down, duplicate responsibilities and duplicate staffing are corrected, spending justifications are enforced etc etc – These are the natural pressures that efficiency brings. Coincidentally, these are the very things which if absent, produce what we can call Divine Opportunities to engage in corruption and plunder. What we call Efficiency and any Innovation deployed to achieve it MUST, of necessity increase the chances of corrupt practices being prevented or found out. Efficiency can and does reduce system-based corruption and that, in itself has the potential to save Ghana an estimated GhS 3+Billion that we lose to corruption annually – to put that in perspective, that equals the Expenditure allocation for running the combined offices of Ministries of Food and Agric, Fisheries, Lands & Natural resources, Trade and Industry, Tourism and culture, Environment, Energy and Business Development – 8 in all. I stated that so we see the potential that Efficiency offers us IF we aggressively pursue it, and not just on paper.
#3 IMPROVEMENT IN EDUCATION & PUBLIC STAFFING
I want to end with a rather unusual benefit of pushing the agenda for Efficiency and Innovation in the Public Sector. I feel it is a benefit, which has the potential of killing 2 birds with one stone. The Public sector is by far the single biggest absorber of University Graduates. My simple analogy is, if indeed the Public Sector were to go on an Aggressive Efficiency Drive which is something I wholehearted support, it will have no choice over time, but to give preference to recruiting staff who are educated-in and driven-by innovation. That biased recruitment preference, combined with the fact that Government is the single biggest employer of University Graduates – means that Government and by extension public sector will suddenly start to see the self-serving benefit in ensuring that one of the focus of Tertiary learning becomes Innovation. Innovation that is focused on delivering efficiency makes it it possible for opportunities to be created (either by discovering entirely new services or discovering better ways of delivering current services) – whether those opportunities translate into more and newer services being available to citizens or expanding the reach of current services, is further testament that efficiency if done aggressively has more benefits than just reducing the cost of delivering those services. In the end, innovation-driven graduates can therefore be employed in the public sector to improve efficiency, or in the private sector to improve profits or if they find no employment in either, already have what it takes, to create their own opportunities. Efficiency can have ripple effects.
As stated in the IMANI report, the Global Innovation Index (GII) a cross-economy performance assessment, compiled on an annual basis, which continuously seeks to update and improve the way innovation is measured in 2019 ranked Ghana 106 out of 129. We came behind African countries such as Kenya, Botswana, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Namibia, Uganda, and Cote d'Ivoire – It simply means we are losing our Star of Africa Status and that we have work to do in improving our Allocative and Technical Efficiencies. But it is possible. The winners of today’s commendations are proof of that.
I want to end by making a humble appeal to IMANI, that going forward the criterion for assessment includes
(1) Adoption of IMANI reports as part of ongoing efficiency culture
(2) Data-driven Decision-Making Processes. Efficiency starts there
(3) Counterpart Citizen Survey on relevance, convenience, pricing & access to public services
I am a believer in efficiency. I believe we need to Do things Right and we need to do the Right Things.
God bless us all.