Public Administration and Decentralisation Reforms

Remarks on behalf of the Donor Community
By UNDP Resident Representative & UN Resident Coordinator, Douglas Gardner
Pre-CG Meeting, 10 September 2004

I am honoured to provide some brief remarks on Public Administration and Decentralisation reforms that represent the consolidated input from a number of your international partners. The development partners of the RGC are pleased to see that these two crucial reform areas have been placed at the very centre of the Royal Government’s policy agenda and the recently adopted “Rectangular Strategy”.

Public Administration Reform

Indeed, as highlighted in the RGC draft National Programme for Administrative Reform of August 2004 a competent and transparent public administration able to deliver high quality services to the people of Cambodia, including poor and vulnerable groups, is a prerequisite for development and prosperity necessary to reach Cambodia’s Millennium Development Goals.

In order to address the challenges of low pay, weak administrative capacity and the need for rationalisation of the civil service structure and employment levels, the immediate challenge for the new government is to accelerate the pace and scope of implementing public sector reform. Having discussed and studied this subject in earlier CG meetings, the moment is ripe for action and subsequent analysis of results. We, therefore, support the Government’s strategic approach being centred on three building blocks:




Rationalising civil service structure and the number of employees to arrive at an optimal size and allocation of the civil service work force for efficient service delivery at national and local level: this can be reinforced by an employment strategy for civil servants based on a functional review at all levels to determine appropriate institutional arrangements, organisational processes and staffing of government operations. As an outcome of such a functional review, a comprehensive human resource development plan to strengthen the capacity of staff at all levels of government will be possible.

Strengthening civil service management
through the further development of a performance management system and the devolution of roles and responsibilities to lower levels of the government administration by introducing effective monitoring mechanisms and a human resource management system that is fully integrated with the budget process. This would also mean transparent sharing and availability of civil servant rosters.

Increasing civil service salaries
to competitive remuneration levels in order to attract and retain skilled staff and to reduce the likelihood of corruption. Opportunities lie in increasing the overall revenues through greater effectiveness in tax collection, streamlining the civil service workforce and capacity building of service providers. These actions can best be undertaken in a targeted and sequenced manner focusing on cohorts of civil servants in high priority areas -- in particular in the health and education sectors as well as in public financial management.

To illustrate the importance of the above points, take a look for a moment at health care. At present Health sector salaries are inadequate and sometimes paid late - both of which impact morale and quality of services. If adequate salaries and benefits were paid to health workers in difficult rural areas, and these workers were well supervised and supplied, we would expect to see an improvement in the delivery of the proven and simple interventions which save children’s lives. One could also pursue this analysis in other sectors.

To implement the points on Public Administration Reform, we would invite consideration be given to reinforcing clear mandates, lines of communications and methods of working for different aspects of the public administration reform process between the many key government institutions who are involved. Furthermore, given the scarcity of resources, public administration reform efforts may wish to focus immediate efforts on a limited number of crucial measures. Additionally, a comprehensive civil service salary reform strategy will need to address distortions created through varying donor salary supplementation practices as well as other ad hoc mechanisms applied in government ministries. The donor community looks forward to the completion of CAR’s study programme over the next few months and the timely adoption of a new civil service reform policy thereafter.

Decentralisation Reform

Directly linked to public administration reform is the system of governance at the sub national level in Cambodia. In this regard the RGC should be applauded for the considerable progress achieved in implementing the decentralization reforms such as the enactment of the Commune Administration Law in early 2001 and election of Commune Councils in 2002. Bringing citizens closer to decisions that impact their lives and having locally elected officials accountable to citizens that they serve has been a winning formula around the globe and at the heart of successful decentralization.

To tap further the full benefits of decentralization for the citizens of Cambodia, key opportunities that lie ahead include:




D & D Strategic Framework: The RGC’s long-term policy and strategy for implementing decentralization and de-concentration reform is now being developed as a strategic framework as directed by you, Mr. Prime Minister. The process for developing and implementing the framework will build a consensus of a Cambodian vision supported by the appropriate institutional arrangements, and is highly commended by the international community. Having such a nationally and locally owned framework will allow D & D to move forward in a synchronized and coherent manner which is important for Government to become more responsive to citizens. It will also help to ensure that D & D is integrated with the broader public administration and public financial management reform processes. Additionally, the Government’s D&D Strategic Framework will serve as the roadmap for your partners to harmonise their assistance.

Organic law:
Administrative structures and the roles and functions at the provincial, district and commune levels need to be clearly defined to ensure that services are delivered in a responsive, efficient and cost-effective manner. Establishing the functions, decision making paths and accountability of administrative officials and service providers at all levels will be, we understand, the thrust of a new organic law. Such formal rationalizing of the functioning of these two efforts could give a major boost to the efficiency of public services throughout the nation. We support the development of this organic law and recognise the need for negotiation and consensus building over a realistic time scale that will be identified in the D&D Strategic Framework.

Commune Councils: The election of Commune Councils has been a major step forward in bringing democracy closer to the local level. In addition to the all important choices at the ballot box in 2002, citizens now have a better chance for their voices and opinions to be heard by their elected officials at the Commune level. The further reinforcement of the Commune Councils is a critical element of the path to deepen democracy and reduce poverty. In that regard, we acknowledge the recent agreement to pilot commercial bank accounts for CS Councils in 2005 in line with the principles of decentralised local governance. At present, overall fiscal constraints limit the critical role of CCs in providing services. To ensure sustainability of communes as viable entities, there now is an opportunity to identify and devolve own-source revenues for CCs. This will enable them to play a more effective role in addressing the priority needs of the populations that they serve.

The development partners remain fully committed to support Government efforts in public administration reform and decentralization -- both of which are central for Cambodia to implement the rectangular strategy and to reach the Millennium targets for 2005, 2010 and 2015.

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