Improving public service through performance contracting and social accountability

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The project seeks to support the Government of Liberia to design a Performance Management System to improve the overall performance of the civil service with measurable indicators for effective performance monitoring towards improved service delivery, through a combination of performance contracting and active harvesting and analysis of citizen feedback data.

Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Liberia is slowly transitioning from a prolonged period of conflict and fragility. Following a peaceful political transition, the new government may struggle to fulfill its pro-poor policy agenda and will be particularly challenged to address significant poverty, high unemployment and disadvantaged rural areas. The Government of Liberia is committed to delivering a pro poor development agenda that outlines ambitious improvements in the living conditions for ordinary Liberians. A centerpiece of the agenda is to improve the provision of quality public services to all citizens including the most vulnerable and marginalized groups of the population. Improved access to quality health care and education, significant infrastructure improvements as well as the establishment of transparent, accountable and effective public institutions have been some of the promises that Liberians' now eagerly are waiting for the government to fulfill. This has necessitated a civil service characterized by effective planning, sound formulation of specific policy objectives within realistic timelines and effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to track progress; all within the context of an institutional environment characterized by transparency, accountability and purpose. This is a tall order considering that the civil service regularly is accused of poor responsiveness to citizens' needs. Maladministration, corruption and adherence to archaic rules and excessive red tape, are also frequently attributed to the civil service. A key reason lies with the low remuneration levels that demotivate civil servants to provide quality and timely services. In addition, they often receive insufficiently opportunities for systematic professional growth, and existing performance evaluation systems are often substandard with little to no value attached to the outcome. As a result, the civil service is unable to attract and retain high quality professionals with required skills, knowledge and experience.

To improve the performance culture of the Liberian civil service, the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs with the support of UNDP started to support the design of a performance management system. Such a system, widely applied in many South countries such as Sierra Leone, Kenya and many others, seek to ensure the accountability of public officials by having them identify and commit to clearly defined annual targets along with their indicators of success to measure service delivery. It is a strategic approach to management, which equips leaders, managers, employees and other stakeholders at various levels with a set of tools and techniques to regularly plan, continuously monitor, periodically measure and review performance of the organization in terms of indicators and targets for efficiency, effectiveness and impact.
The initiative has two components:
1. Development of Performance Contracts: As a first step, all ministers appointed by the President sign annual performance contracts with Cabinet Ministers that monitor their performance in delivering agreed targets that contribute towards the achievement of key Government of Liberia development priorities. The indicators in the performance tracking tables, through which government ministers are monitored will reflect system wide performance of their ministries.
2. Citizen Feedback System (CFS): With various digital technologies such as e-mail, text messaging, online reporting etc., citizens can report anything from teacher absenteeism, damaged roads and improper behavior by civil servants to the CFS. The concerned institution then sends a response through the CFS with an SMS notification to the reporting citizen/complainant about action taken. Furthermore, if a public institution fails to respond to a complaint within one month the CFS team reports this to the President's Delivery Unit creating a strong disincentive for non-compliance. A major strength with this initiative is that it provides a speedy, low cost channel for citizen to voice their concerns and influence public services through modern technology. This is particularly important in Liberia which suffers from severe infrastructure deficits coupled with a very challenging geographical environment. Some signature achievements of the initiative include:
• A revised Cabinet Members’ Handbook and updated Cabinet Guidelines for Ministries Agencies and Commissions (MACs);
• A Performance Manual for Cabinet Secretariats to enable effective follow up on the outcomes of Cabinet retreats, as well as decisions taken at regular meetings of the Cabinet;
• Institutional systems improvements combined with capacity development initiatives that will enable Cabinet Secretariat staff to support MACs in an effective and evidence-based manner;
• The outline of Performance Contracts signed between the President and high ranking public officials that strengthen accountable and effective ministerial delivery of essential services;
• A Citizens’ Feedback Mechanism that will improve provision of public services to all Liberians, especially vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, by helping the government compile and analyze essential services data to better understand what kind of services need to be improved in what parts of the country for what kind of individuals (women, men, girls, boys, old, young).

Liberia

UNDP Country Investment Facility

Ministry of State of Presidential Affairs , Civil Service Agency , Governance Commission

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