Empirical evidence on the effectiveness of productivity incentives in the public sector is sparse. However donor enthusiasm is growing for this general approach and certain lessons are emerging.
public sector reform
Public sector reforms often attempt to mimic the “discipline” of the market in order to spur better performance among service providers. Examples include numerous variants of performance based financing for health, where health providers are compensated monetarily for achievement of specified health targets. At the heart of this approach is a standard view of economic agents induced to modify behaviors through pecuniary incentives.
In my earlier blog post, I had conceived the idea of 'fee-based service centers' that can be run through public-private partnership with the goal of improving citizens’ access to, and delivery of, government services. The concept was considered in the context of sustainability of demand for good governance practices in relation to the aid dependency culture of civil society organizations. Recently, I became aware that such ‘fee-based service centers’ do prevail and, in fact, have caught the attention of policymakers and development experts.
Two types of reaction are common when talking about civil society engagement in public sector reform: 1. Skeptical. 2. Idealistic. This leaves very little room for a realistic view to genuinely reflect on the actual impact and contributions of civil society in good governance work.
Access to pertinent public data is crucial to inform and mobilize citizens in demanding better governance. Experience shows, however, that the process involved in garnering public data is arduous and often confronted with strong resistance. To begin with, the planning and execution of government programs and budget are seldom performed in a transparent manner and even when the information is made available, the technical use of the language and the procedures involved in the execution make it very difficult for a lay person to decipher and analyze them. Problems are also encountered with incomplete or badly maintained records of public expenditures and service delivery. In addition, the officials who are in charge of managing the programs are cautious in releasing the records for fear of consequences from the disclosed information. In spite of these constraints, methods have been developed to promote transparency in the planning and implementation of public programs and budget through what has been a long process of information gathering and advocacy campaigns.
A recent report by the Bank's Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) entitled Public Sector Reform: What Works and Why? offers interesting insights into the recent work on governance at the Bank.