Address by President Danny Faure To The Chief Executive Officers Forum, Friday, 11th November, 2016
11 November 2016 | State House
Secretaries of State
Chief Secretary & Head of Public Service
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to have been invited to address you this afternoon, and to share with you the vision I have for a public service that is based on the three principles of good governance, accountability and transparency, as outlined to the National Assembly in my address on 18th October.
I have restructured the Executive arm of Government to enable greater synergies that will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the Executive arm of Government to deliver on its commitment to the people of our country.
I have appointed Ministers to give clear direction on the policies and plans of our Government, and I have appointed Principal Secretaries and Chief Executives to implement these policies and plans in the most efficient and timely manner.
In the discharge of our responsibilities, we should never forget that we in Government are servants of the people of Seychelles, that we are accountable to them through the established structures of state. We operate under the rule of law, which means that in each of our organisations, we must have a framework of policies and legal instruments that guide the procedures through which our work is accomplished.
These guidelines must be applied equally and fairly. There is no room here for arbitrary decision making. As our Constitution states, we serve without fear or favour, affection or ill will. This cardinal principle must be respected by everyone in the public service.
As Chief Executives, you must lead by example. You must walk the talk. You must adhere strictly to the Code of Conduct that all Public Officers are required to sign.
I want to say a few words about proper service delivery, which is at the heart of good governance, and which ultimately is the acid test of the public service. This is where you, and the people we serve, experience the moment of truth. This is where people decide whether your organisation works or does not work.
Service delivery requires that organisations are well structured to discharge their functions. The CEO, as head of each executive agency, must not only know the functions of the organisation, but must also have a broader vision of raison d'etre of the organisations, and its role in the wider public service.
The organisation must have a work plan, with clear, measurable targets to be achieved at specified intervals. This broad vision allows you to structure your organisation, and to make appropriate links with other organisations that you work with, so that the end user of your service gets a response that is well informed and timely. These operational structures must be known and understood by all the staff in your organisation, and also the public. You must document your plans, policies and procedures so that these are accessible to everyone in a transparent way.
For example, if your department deals with applications for housing, every staff member should be aware of the policies and procedures in force. These should also be known by the applicants. The manner in which applications will be processed, the criteria to be used, and how long it will take to give a response should be clear to everyone.
These policies, plans and procedures should be made available online through your organisation's web page in the Government Portal, along with answers to frequently asked questions. This will save the time of both your staff and applicants, and will help to properly manage expectations.
The nature of public service requires that its organisations are well-connected to provide complementary services. As CEOs, it is your role to establish and use these links properly. It is only by working TOGETHER that we can succeed and achieve our common goals.
As Chief Executives, we must each know our organisation inside out, but we must also develop our knowledge of the public service and Government as a whole, and especially of the organisations that we work closest with.
Of course, structures alone will not function without people, and this is where we must ensure that we have a strong human resource management team that ensures that the organisation is staffed by people who have the necessary skills and competence to discharge the responsibilities required of them, and that suitable training opportunities are provided to enable staff to acquire new knowledge and skills required in this fast developing world.
Strong discipline is another vital aspect of an effective organisation. As CEOs, you need to ensure that in this regard too, you lead by example.
Employees who do not abide by the rules of the organisation should be disciplined in accordance with policy and procedures. And employees who are well disciplined and provide a good service should be properly recognised.
Staff meetings should be held regularly so that the staff have an opportunity to contribute ideas for the development of the organisation, and to address issues of common concern.
Each member of staff – regardless of their place on their hierarchy of the organization – must, at least twice a year, be afforded an opportunity to voice their aspirations, suggestions, and concerns in a meeting where you are present.
Whilst there are many areas of service improvement I could mention, I would like to highlight reviewing mechanisms to improve efficiency and increase productivity.
Particularly setting up the mechanisms to methodically track the improvement in your organization in objective ways. You must collect the necessary information and data to show how you are improving the service and delivery levels in your organization. And simultaneously bear in mind the importance of your organisation’s image.
Here I speak of things like the hours of the day or night that your vehicles are seen on the roads, the punctuality of yourself and your staff, the frequency with which phone calls to your organization are answered, etc… They may seem trivial, but are often the yardstick against which your organization is judged.
Objective measurement and publication of your organisation’s performance may help soften these subjective yardsticks, but I would suggest that prevention is better than cure.
With regard to matters brought to our attention on file for a decision, I have said that we should have a maximum of 48 hours turnaround time to provide a suitable response, and ensure that the matter is followed through fully within the shortest possible time.
As CEOs, you should also benchmark the performance of your organisations using suitable standards, and make appropriate adjustments to achieve desired outcomes.
The standards that we set ourselves should be realistic, but the ultimate goal is to set standards of excellence in service delivery and in every aspect of our work.
You should review the performance of your organisations on a quarterly basis, and submit quarterly reports to the Cabinet.
Where you find obstacles to the progress of your plans, highlight these, so that Government can provide the necessary resources, or advise on suitable alternatives. Additionally, as I mentioned before, you need to aggregate some pieces of data which you are ready to provide to the public – through your websites or otherwise – as well.
This information will serve to keep the public informed about the output from your organization so that they have some context.
In addition, I have also asked Ministers to submit to the Cabinet the minutes of the Senior Management Committee meetings in their respective Ministries, so that the Cabinet as a whole is well informed of the work of organisations and the challenges they face.
With regard to State-Owned Enterprises, an important aspect of governance will be that the Chief Executive Officer will now report directly to the Chairman of the Board, and not to the Minister responsible for the portfolio under which the parastatal falls.
The Chairman, in turn, will keep the Minister briefed on the work of the organisation in relation to its statutory functions.
As I have mentioned to the National Assembly, Board meetings should, as far as practicable, be held outside normal working hours to allow Board members to be present in their usual work places, and not delay the discharge of their regular functions.
Dear Chief Executives, we should never lose sight of our primary goal, which is serving the people of Seychelles. I expect that every organisation will use the resources at its disposal, including the media and the government web portal, to keep the public in general suitably informed of the work being undertaken on their behalf. You should also provide channels for the public to communicate directly with you on matters of general concern, and we should acknowledge, welcome and value such feedback.
Before concluding, I would like you all to think carefully about three principles I have spoken about with regard to public service: Good Governance, Transparency and Accountability. Think about how your respective organisations reflect these values, and what you can do to better uphold these principles in your organisation.
These principles are vital if we want to earn the respect, the trust and the confidence of the people that we serve.
Dear Chief Executives, you have been given the responsibility of ensuring that the work of the Executive arm of Government is done as efficiently and as thoroughly as possible.
I would like to repeat that we can only succeed by working as a team, by working TOGETHER.
Dear Chief Executives, yours is an important responsibility, and the people of this country will hold us to account for the proper discharge of these responsibilities and the judicious use of the resources allocated to you. We must not fail in this mission.
I shall be following your progress with great interest.
I shall be a listening President, always ready to support you in whatever way I can.
I shall also be an exacting President, I shall expect us all to honour our responsibilities.
I wish you every success in the tasks ahead.