Democracy, efficiency and equity are the three central organizing concepts of modern public service. Based on this principle the government has embarked a program of administrative reforms as a response to citizens’ sensitivity that matters within the public administration. Seen a broader spectrum, administrative reforms are characterized by a wide policy of continuity which makes their results last, rather than by partisan efforts of short-lived political governments.
They include a broader inquiry into the role and rationale that administrative institutions and legal administrative provisions play in the governance of national resources. In other words, they require capacity to develop a strategic view and long-term planning. I would call the attention to a few issues that seem to go beyond the program of the incumbent government, which is confined to redesign and revise the structure of the ministries, pointing towards a broader scope of reforms to enable public administration to cope with the contemporaneous challenges. Institutional arrangements under the government umbrella, our history suggests, are malleable and a matter of choice, while real change is driven by strategic vision, capable to reach enduring standards. Politics have triggered a perverse tendency to focus on the short term, or “quick wins” gaming and tactics. On the face of it, genuine leadership is required to establish the desired outcomes of administrative reforms in a longer perspective.
Therefore my concerns tend to raise awareness as to how the reforms cater for improving the managerial performance of the public administration, simultaneously enhancing its citizen orientation, thus harmonizing economic efficiency with social equity, and removing undue political pressure at the expense of good governance and functional public management .
A greater concern with the management of national resources tends to focus more on results, and not simply on law enforcement, promoting at the same time professionalism, legality, and social equity in the delivery of public service, as the advised path of reforms. I would argue that a special policy might be enacted to introduce effective forms of management, with a better focus on performance. Thus the administrative state will be evaluated by its performance, setting out incentives and developing appropriate indicators for a more rigorous assessment that will be correlated to the success in achieving the objectives of the specific sector that the public administration is designed to support . This is especially so in the budgeting and financial management area, where quality and efficiency objectives in public funds expenditure are of a paramount importance.
In the area of citizen-administration relations a profound reform is needed to promote the values of citizen participation and accountability. The auditing in the public sector should promote not just efficient performance but morally justifiable administrative action. Transforming the State Supreme Audit to a Court should be seriously considered as a mean to raise efficiency and decency in the public sector. The administrative justice system, must endow the citizen with effective procedural instruments to contest and hold the public administration accountable. So far administrative sanctions have failed to address corruption when it comes to the duty to act impartially and the lack of responsibility of collective organs of the public administration has provided a notorious shield in cases of conspiracy to defraud in the public service. Legal individual accountability, including criminal liability, should be introduced in the area of public sector collegiate bodies, a specific corruption problem within the public administration. Furthermore, the administrative courts, placing the greatest weight on their written submissions procedure that precludes oral hearings, have not succeeded in their core function to deliver effective administrative justice for citizens and businesses.
Administrative law and administrative justice, so far, have not managed to structure, constrain, and control administrative discretion, which is a major source of corruption and misuse of public competence. Thus, the rationale of the government’s policy of reforms should be underpinned by both legal and rational considerations, its reasons for administrative reform policy should be clear, relevant and sustainable, transferring the focus of the reforms to a balanced view of legalistic objectives and viable management of public resources.