Parmesh Chand on Public Sector Reforms

The Public Sector Reforms: 
1. The Overall Plan

Edited extracts from my  Interview with Parmesh Chand, Permanent Secretary Public Service Commission. Vinaka, Tui, for this transcript. .
Parmesh Chand: The public sector reforms encompass finance reforms, labour reforms, public enterprise reforms and civil service reforms. The public sector as such is broader than the civil service. It covers quasi and statutory authorities and is much more than the civil service.

I was involved in the public sector reforms before when I was CEO Public Enterprise but now I’m involved in the Civil Service Reforms which focus on organizational reform, human resources, manpower development or talent development.

It also focuses on bring about efficiencies, so in the area of organizational reform we are looking at how best some of the entities within government can go through a process through commercialization, corporatized or outsourcin. A lot is happening already. Water is corporatized now and government shipping services has been outsourced to the navy. Nothing much will change in government shipping services staffing and structure but the navy has been brought on top to improve their work culture and to improve the efficiencies in maritime shipping so they need to be given a jolt.

Then Government Supplies is being reformed, Government Supplies was a big sum here where it involved government buying, procuring staff and warehousing. At one stage government started opening stalls to make parts of those bigger items to be sold. So government was running full-fledged government hardware stalls around the country.

The reform involves closing all that down, closing the warehousing concept of government supplies, and bringing it purely into a procurement mode where it becomes the secretariat to the tenders board. It will just oversee supplies and store manual procurement instructions and ensures that proper processors have been followed by respective departments and ministries in procuring supplies. We will not store supplies. That was the main part of the abuse before, and much of it would just be just in time delivery. So it will become an entity reduced from 140 to only 40.

Then government was running its own printery, This will be be sold, Once we have a good outsourcing policy developed for contracting out, a lot of things will fall in place on how government will operate in terms of projects and infrastructure. The whole modality will shift from it being a hardware and software component of infrastructure to only doing the design (and even design could be contracted out) maintaining quality and standards of supervision and seeing how best policy objectives are being met .

So the delivery of the infrastructure or product will be left in the hands of the private sector.

Croz: Has this being influenced by IMF?
Parmesh Chand: No. It has always been our thinking but it is now easier to implement. IMF is not driving this. IMF has not even come to the stage of reforms yet and they cannot impose anything at the moment unless they come up with a package of assistance.

Croz: But they are more likely to come up with a package of assistance with you doing these sorts of things?
Parmesh Chand: It’s possible that they might because the reforms downsize government and makes us more efficient. If the maintenance of highways and roads, for instance, is outsourced, why do we have to maintain PWD. We will no longer need a maintenance section in PWD.

Croz: Do you expect that another result will be lessening opportunities for theft and minor corruption ?
Parmesh Chand: Yes. The other thing is that it will reduce the burden of hiring more staff. More staff means more office space, more liabilities by way of superannuation, PAYE, insurance, welfare and grievance procedures to worry about. Downsizing means that we get rid of most of that and retain a group of professionals in government.


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