Policy Implementation is key to anticorruption.
Consider this scenario – you have given a written list of tasks to your staff only to have them come back later, look you in the eye, and say “I have completed the list.”
The problem is – they didn’t complete the list, did they?
You hand list back and ask politely, “Are you sure everything is completed?”
They look at you, get visibly nervous, look at the list again, and say, “Yes sir. I have completed everything on the list.”
But the list isn’t completed – they have failed to carry out the job. Of course, the immediate temptation is to assume they lied, were stupid or possibly lazy.
But the truth is much more complicated than that.
When I ask senior government officials if they have had this experience, virtually all of them will acknowledge and shake their heads in frustration.
But when I ask them “How many of you have gotten a phone call from your spouse asking you to pick-up three or four things from the grocery store on your way home from work?”
At this point the room usually breaks down into laughter, as we all know what happens next. They get home from the grocery store and their spouse asks “Did you get the XXX?” and you realize that you had forgotten it.
This failure to implement is at the core of nearly all corruption prevention failures.
If we are honest, we will acknowledge that EVERYONE has some trouble following instructions, or procedures. It is not a function of academic education level, although education can help improve the ability to follow procedures.
Professional sports teams spend a vast percentage of their time working on basic skills and going over the “plays.” These plays are the “policies and procedures” for the sports teams.
In contrast, professional government executives and employees in “first world” developed countries spends very little time learning the policies and procedures, and no time “practicing” either the “fundamentals” or the “plays.”
By direct observation, the learning and practicing environment is even weaker in developing and transitional countries.
Pritchett, et. al., have similar observations. Their observations center on “capability” and go so far as to observe that “many countries remain in ‘state capability traps’ in which the implementation capability of the state is both severely limited and improving (if at all) only very slowly.” Dramatically, they announce that “countries like Haiti or Afghanistan or Liberia would take hundreds (if not thousands) of years to reach the capability of a country like Singapore and decades to reach even a moderate capability country like India.” (See note below.)
From this perspective, its fairly naïve to expect much of government anywhere.
Where critical training is in fundamental skills absent (i.e., everywhere) success is hinged entirely on the quality and tenacity of management to push through to see that policies are followed and targets are achieved by staff. But government managers don’t get much training either.
A challenge in All countries is the ability to follow instruction (policies and procedures). Fundamentally, “capability” is an education problem.
When I raise this issue with academics in the field of public administration, I am often met with turned up noses. “These matters are too basic. What do they have to do with public administration theory?”
But at the end of the day, people need to REALLY learn how to do their jobs. And their job descriptions are often nearly worthless in instructing them on the procedures and products associated with their jobs.
Ongoing training and education is critical, but needs to go beyond superficial classroom and online training that teaches the buzzwords. It needs to include practical experience with the implementation of policies. Probably the most useful sorts of training I have received either in government or outside government has been timesheet training. Getting the timesheets correct is a high priority and institutions will dedicate time to ensure it is understood and done properly. I am sure there are other examples, but none of those training examples are implemented without educated and capable management to push them through to completion.
Let me encourage my colleagues in government and consulting to be courageous, and take on the challenge of teaching managers the skills needed to push, encourage and drag staff through to learning implementation skills.
If people know and can execute their jobs well, corruption will find it that much more difficult to find an opening.
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