In a discussion yesterday, on delivering recovery strategies, with Ministers, Commissioners, General Managers and the President’s Delivery Team, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the biggest enabler of change in a country is the quality of its governance.
“When we analyse why one country has succeeded, and where another has failed, the answer is always related to the quality of its governance. Everything else can be imported, including skills and expertise, but not the quality of the decision-making. That is for the country concerned,” he said.
Tony Blair, who is also chair of the Africa Governance Initiative, was speaking from his experience of supporting public sector delivery in Sierra Leone since 2008. His five-step process for effective delivery includes prioritisation, enabling policies, performance management, accurate data and analysis, and getting the right personnel. He added that “the process only works if it is intimately connected with the point of decision-making in government, with the full weight of the presidency behind it.”
His view of public service delivery is that it is the biggest challenge today for governments across the world, but that the private sector’s approach could provide useful examples: “Although the public and private sectors often have different objectives and values, the private sector has valuable experience in implementation. Businesses that do not deliver, quickly go out of business,” he explained.
Key to successful delivery, he advised, is flexibility, a process of stock taking and collaboration across the MDAs involved, particularly when it comes to altering what he described as ‘a conspiracy of inertia’ in the public sector that might impede the process. “There are governments that change the status quo and those that manage it,” he said. “The natural inclination is to manage the status quo but you cannot create change in that way.”
He told the team that there was great deal of international commitment and belief behind Sierra Leone and its recovery process, and that visitors to the country left with a sense of inspiration. However, the economic status of its people was yet to reflect its potential. “Sierra Leone is a rich country with too many poor people,” he concluded. “To your credit, you have taken on the noble ambition of trying to change that. If you have a clear idea about what you want to achieve, you can drive leadership. Your destiny lies in your own hands.“