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Jordan’s government delivery system should be supported

Sep 22,2020 - Last updated at Sep 22,2020

Navigating the reform architecture in Jordan is no easy task. With a lack of quality data and several reform agendas, national strategies and action plans concurrently existing in government, it is difficult to track progress, measure change or determine with certainty which policies and government programmes are or are not delivering results. This serves to stall progress towards achieving objectives, dampens the prospects for public accountability and prevents timely course correction for better government performance. 

Among other factors, the issue is still very much of available capacity. Middle management in national institutions is effectively a reform and innovation bottleneck. The machinery below senior staff is often technically rustic and intellectually antiquated. This is the most detrimental challenge facing the government today. With such capacity limitations, no one, minister or group of ministers, can meaningfully move the needle on any of the country’s development challenges. 

Considering Jordan’s limited resources, the COVID-struck economy, and the hyper complexity of our problems today, the need to move away from silos in public administration to a more synergistic system that relies on data-driven policy and programmatic solutions and tracks implementation to quickly self-correct when things are not working, has never been more important. What is required today is a functional national monitoring, evaluation and learning system that cantrack government delivery priorities, assess progress, facilitate evidence-based decision-making at all levels, and support innovation and coordination in policymaking. The system will need to be manned by capable public service servants whose own individual performance is tied to that of their institutions.

With the right reflective capacity to monitor performance and operationalise and integrate emerging learning, supported by a functioning cross-government data architecture that both produces and sustains demand for quality data, the government should be able to more effectively and efficiently craft programming and policy that better correspond to reform outcomes in national strategies.

The good news is that a fledging model is being developed and housed at the prime ministry. In March 2020, the government launched the System for Developing the Achievement and Follow up of Governmental Performance, in partnership with the Public Performance Development Department of the Prime Ministry, the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation and the Civil Service Bureau. Funded by the EU, the promising system aims to develop a mechanism to ensure the achievement of the government’s national plans. The system envisages the establishment of two units linked to the prime minister, namely the Strategy and Decision Support Unit and the Government Achievement and Performance Unit. The first is meant to support Cabinet decisions and generate data for decision-making. The latter will track the performance of government units and institutions relative to their strategic plans.The system also aims to cascade national strategies and plans downward through ministry hierarchies and ensure that staff performance feeds into their implementation. 

The creation of a delivery system at the prime ministry is a promising move in the right direction, and the buy-in of the various government actors is now critical to ensure the new system survives Cabinet changes. The government is urged to speed up this process, and to reign in oversight of all sector strategies until they are well integrated in the ministries decision-making processes. This will streamline government efforts and ensure some level of accountability to citizens, promising to rebuild trust in government with time.

The delivery system is in line with transformational trends in government today. Similar efforts have sprouted elsewhere in the world to ensure that government priorities are delivered as planned. At the heart of this trend is the realisation that a whole of government approach powered by good data and technology is necessary to address systemic challenges and optimise government performance. 

Jordan’s model promises to break the tired cycle of ineffectiveness that continues to reinvent itself with the regular changes in government. It should be supported and institutionalised.

 

The writer is a co-founder of INTEGRATED, a development consulting firm based in Jordan. She contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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