Management Consultant Mike Eldon

Managing public service delivery

The roles of Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi have been defined as follows:

Assist the President and the Deputy President in the coordination and supervision of government ministries and State departments.

In liaison with the ministry responsible for Interior and National Administration, oversee the implementation of national government policies, programmes and projects.

Chair and coordinate national government legislative agenda across all ministries and State departments in consultation with and for transmission to the party or coalition leaders in Parliament, facilitate inter-ministerial coordination of cross-functional initiatives and programmes.

And coordinate and supervise the technical monitoring and evaluation of government policies, programmes and projects.

Very good. Coordinating and facilitating, supervising and overseeing. With Mr Mudavadi’s extensive and varied experience, and as someone known to be “the adult in the room”, I don’t doubt that he will add value. The question I ask is what systems will he have available to support him to play his role effectively – and this without duplicating the not dissimilar functions of the Deputy President.

Different institutions and approaches have been introduced in succeeding administrations to carry out the kinds of functions described in the Prime Cabinet Secretary’s job description. I go back to the Kibaki days when the Public Service Reform and Development Secretariat (PSRDS) brought in such goodies as Results Based Management (RBM) and the Rapid Results Initiative (RRI). I was a member of the consultants for Kenya team that supported PSRDS with these excellent initiatives, which were beginning to make a real difference when it was disbanded.

What largely remained was the Performance Contracting Unit, which had been separate, and then as now it, unfortunately, has fallen far short of delivering on its significant potential.

As I have seen in so many government entities whose performance contracts I have studied over the years — at the national and also devolved levels — the performance indicators very rarely extend to assessing the ultimate desired impact of an initiative.

Instead, the participants play safe, with easy-to-measure mere output indicators, like in this common example. Objective: “Train 40 staff on the XYZ system.” Indicator: “40 staff trained.” That’s it. No consideration of what the staff learned or how they applied it and with what consequence.

As I put it in the many workshops I facilitate on such subjects, those involved were too timid and unambitious to keep asking the “So what?” question, till that ultimate desired impact was defined and hence the extent of its achievement, could be assessed.

By the way, it’s why I’ve never been a fan of the term monitoring and evaluation or M&E as it is commonly known. For it too readily describes what happens. Yes, work is monitored, and yes, it is evaluated – both necessary, and yet unless there is a “So what?” of the monitoring and evaluation in terms of driving higher performance as a result of the M and the E, we have not reached the sufficient.

This is what RBM and RRI were all about. And through the World Bank others and I introduced PM4R – Performance Management for Results. Yes, for results.

So, Bwana Mudavadi, please review the performance contracting system, and ensure that the capacity to deliver what it should is developed and applied. Then, do not have fragmentation of the institutions supporting you and whom you will be supporting.

Take the Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat seriously, as it drives its five-year medium-term plans and extends its horizon beyond 2030. And do not have other delivery units at the national level that overlap or compete. Also, consider the re-establishment of the National Economic and Social Council. It will help you, the DP and the President.

So much has been learned about what it takes to have high-performance teams deliver on their mandates with impact. We have seen such teams in action at both the national and county levels, and we know the critical success factors involved. In my work supporting the government over the years, I have helped leadership teams overcome non-technical obstacles to performance. Here the challenge of defining appropriate performance indicators requires even more deep thought, motivating and enabling the route to success.

Do not over-complicate the systems, Sir, and focus on the disproportionately significant. But above all nurture a focus on the aspirational future.