The Government of Malawi has been implementing Public Service Reforms since the country’s independence in 1964; however, the implementation of reforms was problematic due to several factors. These included inadequate commitment to reforms by political, administrative and technical leaders in the public service which led to partial implementation; lack of ownership of reforms since they were mostly externally driven; inadequate resources allocated for implementation of reforms; lack of a shared vision for reforms due inadequate participation of non-state actors and citizens in reforms; and lack of capacity to implement reforms. In addition, there had been no overarching policy to guide the content and implementation of all public service reform programmes.
In 2006 the Public Sector Reforms Management Unit (PSRMU) was established within the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to coordinate all Public Sector Reforms for the development of a modern and efficient Public Service. PSRMU was mandated to provide strategic leadership on Public Sector Reforms, planning and management, and to develop the strategic linkages among various reform initiatives in the public sector and institutions that drive them.
The unit is responsible for coordinating the implementation and monitoring of all reforms including resource mobilisation and management for all reform activities that cut across MDAs.
A modern, professional, efficient and effective public service
To catalyse, drive and facilitate public service reforms for improved, sustainable high quality and timely delivery of service to the public through the provision of planning and technical services.
Reforms Agenda Process
The coming in of a new political administration in 2014 saw more prominence being placed on public sector reforms. In keeping with his promise, His Excellency President Arthur Peter Mutharika appointed the Public Service Reform Commission in June, 2014 to help drive the reforms agenda forward. Led by the Right Honourable Vice President, the Commission was mandated to provide strategic leadership in the implementation of Public Service Reforms (PSRs), for efficient provision of high quality public services. The objective of the Commission was to identify and recommend ways and means of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the Public Service in order to raise the quality of the public services delivered to the public.
The process begun with information gathering which was done in order for the Commission to understand the underlying issues affecting public service delivery and the main reasons that had caused previous attempts at reforms to fail. The findings of this initial process culminated into the preparation of the Public Service Reforms Report of February, 2015. Three main ways were used for information gathering and these were through: (i) public hearings/roundtable discussions, (ii) literature review, and (iii) benchmarking study tours. The Commission visited Singapore, Kenya, New Zealand and Scotland to learn how they reformed their countries. The consultations involved a cross section of all Malawians including private sector, public sector, political parties, civil society organizations, the Judiciary, the Legislature, all presidential candidates in 2014 General Elections, Trade Unions, Development Partners, all Presidential candidates, traditional leaders, religious leaders and the Media.
The President provided championship of the Reforms while the Commission provided strategic direction, and recommended reform areas for the President’s approval. The Public Sector Reform Management Unit (PSRMU) provided facilitation, monitoring, reporting and dissemination.
Further support to the process is provided by a Cabinet Committee on Public Service Reforms and the Economy, a Principal Secretaries Committee and a Technical Committee. Oversight functions for the reforms are provided by a Parliamentary Committee and a Development Partner Forum called the Public Administration Sector Working Group (PASWG).
The Journey of Reforms
The Reforms Agenda was launched on 11th February, 2015. The journey started with seven pioneer ministries and one department that signed Performance Contracts with His Excellency the President highlighting their proposed reform areas and making public commitments to deliver on their plans within specified time periods. In February 2016, four additional ministries signed Performance Contract with the State President. By December 2016, reforms for the remaining ministries were approved except that of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development.
All Parastatal Organizations had their proposed reforms approved by the State President and commenced implementation in October 2015.
By December, 2016, all the 35 District, Town, Municipal and City Councils had submitted their proposed reforms which marked the completeness of putting all public sector institutions on reform program. Reforms for District, Town, Municipal and City Councils were approved by His Excellency the President in January, 2017 for immediate implementation.
Currently, reforms are being implemented in all 17 Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), all 35 Local Councils, 54 Parastatal Organizations and 11 Constitutional Bodies.
There has been significant progress made in the implementation of reforms.