At a time of increasing public sector reform, senior officials are being asked to provide better quality public services for citizens, but with less human and financial resources, due partly to the global financial crisis.
In response the Commonwealth Secretariat has just completed the third in a series of programmes designed to support and develop the skills of these senior leaders to continue delivering efficient and effective public services.
The Leadership Development Programme two-week course run by the Secretariat and the National School of Governments in Sunningdale, UK, saw 16 government permanent secretaries from the Caribbean and two from the Pacific discuss the latest thinking and best practice on delivering public services.
Colin McDonald and Ade Ogunmefun, Caribbean regional advisers for the Secretariat’s Governance and Institutional Development Division (GIDD), said: “The ultimate outcome of this programme is to enhance the leadership skills of the officials so they are better prepared to meet the ever-changing demands that come with working in twenty-first century public sector organisations.”
As a Permanent Secretary in Dominica overseeing the ministries: Lands, Housing, Settlements and Water Resource Management and Information, Telecommunications and Constituency Empowerment, Davis Letang works with government ministers and civil servants to ensure citizens can access the public services they need.
He attended the leadership programme to learn from others and share his own country’s findings on how to deal with particular public sector issues.
“The citizen has the right to demand a better quality service from its government. That puts the onus on us as officials to continuously re-evaluate the quality of service we provide in an environment where you also have economic pressures where we’re being asked to do more with less,” he said.
“The Secretariat’s programme provides that opportunity for us to reflect on what we do and how we can improve to provide a better service to the public.
“As a permanent secretary we are working in very dynamic environments - things are constantly changing and we need to update ourselves with new tools and engage in more strategic visioning.”
The programme reviews the role, remit and priority issues for public sector leaders and hones their skills in areas such as strategy, reform, financial and human resources management and working with government ministers to achieve their national development plan.
Mr Letang added: "While emphasis continues to be placed on modernising the processes for the delivery of public services through information and communication technologies, equal attention needs to be given to more evidence-based policy development and decision-making using the varied analytical tools to which we have been exposed during the last two weeks.
“It is my hope that these skills can be transferred to other senior public officers in Dominica and result in improved service delivery and higher levels of satisfaction among clients. The leadership role played by the permanent secretary in any ministry is therefore very critical to this change process and in the new public service environment."
Participants at the March programme were from Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Tonga.
A fourth course will be run in June 2012 as part of a package of interventions by GIDD to improve public service delivery so citizens can access the services they need to improve livelihoods in Commonwealth countries.