The state is not nearly as dynamic, modern or efficient a body as it could or should be. It wastes money, has an endless bureaucracy in places and very often delivers poor results. The approach taken to making cutbacks in the face of crisis has been blunt force trauma. No plan and no backup has led to services worsening far more than they would if politicians could show some real leadership.
Massive private sector organisations, some larger than our own public service, turned themselves around in the face of adversity in recent times. Within our own Department of Defence we have seen how a public sector organisation can modernise and change over a short period of time with its 1990’s reforms. It can be done, if there is strong leadership combined with a good plan.
Bottom to Top Reform
Government is inefficient and often lets us down. Be it wasteful spending and white elephant projects or the failure to look after children in state care and provide decent care for the elderly, a lot of government failings come back to a dysfunctional and broken administrative system.
A Modern Employer
The government is not a modern employer, with public servants working in an often archaic, inflexible and frustrating environment. It is difficult for a person working in it to give their best when the organisation holds them back. Inflexible contracts, stuffy hierarchies of managers and a culture of passing around paperwork prevails.
Focus on Outcomes
“We don’t measure our success by results but by activity,” is an old joke from Yes, Minister. For much of the bureaucracy in Ireland it’s true today as it was in the 1980’s, with endless hierarchies of managers and paperwork, committees and working groups and studies in place of actual work to produce actual results.
Government hides inefficiency, waste and failures behind a wall of silence. It is illegal for a company to withhold information from its shareholders, but our senior civil servants and politicians believe it is fine to keep as much as possible from its citizens. We have one of the most opaque governments in any first world democracy, and have a high level of government failure. These are related.