Corruption - A social disease (Part 168): Policy making procedures must be reviewed

17 November 2020 | Columns

Johan Coetzee - What may the deterioration of the public service morale and competency levels, an increase in political interference and an increase in corruption have in common?

There can be quite a few commonalities. Decision making (governance) for policy implementation is one.

A deterioration in public policy implementation is taking place contrary to international trends such as the knowledge-based economy, e-governance, value added governance, network governance and sustainable governance as reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN).

A review of the policy making process is required.

AN INTEDEPENDEND AND INTERRELATED SYSTEMS

Policy is a process that is part of a larger system that can be found in philosophy as well as processes and practices as reflected in portfolios, programmes and projects.

Public policy making and implementation are processes of a value chain that requires cross checks and balances between all six phases (but not limited to) identification, agenda setting, formulation, adoption, implementation and monitoring, and evaluation/assessment. Currently there is limited commitment to measure indicators for improved implementation.

Although indicators can be improved at all levels, some contributors to limited implementation are vested in the implementation or rather non and limited implementation and repetitive policy and project implementation oversights.

Over the years Namibians have observed excellent plans such as Harambee. However, the momentum to monitor ongoing implementation of plans and institutionalising it into policies and workable programmes and projects to rectify shortcomings are evident in a graveyard of unachievable outputs and outcomes.

Covid-19 and resulting inconsistent implementation is still fresh in the memories of Namibians. The recent opening and closing of boarders is a prime example of such incoherence.

LEGISLATION AS ENABLER

An increase is observed in legislation that is vague, open for discretion, an administrative nightmare to implement and challengeable in court, for example changes to the Marine Resources Act that legalized the corruption of Fishrot.

The National Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF) and Bill (NEEEB) and the implementation thereof will not contribute to successful policy implementation, because the bill in its current form is unsustainable and an administrative nightmare.

A lot of legislation are outdated and originated from the Apartheid era. Such legislation needs to be scrapped and/or revised, like the Terrorism Act.

Successful policy formulation and implementation starts with sound and legitimate legislation that represents the will of the people, not the will of a government that wants to score political points. People resist such legislation and policies and its implementation.

The Procurement Act is an example of legislation that probably created more uncertainty and loopholes.

ACCOUNTABILITY AND POLICY MONOPOLIES

To improve policy making and implementation, accountability should be increased. Delegation should be used to make that possible.

Policy making is a system and systems engineering can be used to improve it.

The current system of policy making has almost no ability to rectify itself because public servants seems to shy away from accepting accountability (maybe because they are just following instructions, political interference and protecting their jobs), are not reprimanded for no or partial implementation and those in control of the policy making process (senior public office bearers), also protect their positions and they are protected by the politicians that appoint them and to whom they report.

Adequate checks and balances are not in place to rectify policy failures. Monopolies in policy implementation should be minimized to provide more checks and balances for improved implementation. Such monopolies prevent self-correction and/or rectification.

RETHINKING THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT

The approach that government should be the main driver of policy formulation and implementation should be aligned with international trends of value-added governance and network governance where government is just one player in the policy making process.

Government is supposed to only facilitate the social dialogue for enabling all stakeholders to participate. Government is not supposed to drive the process of policy formulation. This should be done by the public in the form of active interest groups and making use of social media platforms.

Interest groups and advocacy groups are not adequately involved and not respected by Government for their input. The absence of senior public officials attending interest group presentations is evident and demonstrated over decades the inability of Government to facilitate policy formulation based on ongoing social dialogue for continues improvement of public policy based on research, international trends and best practices. Interest groups tend not to receive feedback regarding policy formulation.

Government rather entertains a short process of public consultation before implementation. The process is also too centralized and driven by Government instead of being tested and verified based on public demand.

For example, NEEEB seems not be driven by the public, but rather by political opportunism.

A new culture of democratic policy formulation should be facilitated.

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