Strengthening Public Service Delivery: Functional Reform Measures


May Leong, Selina Chean, David Tan



Policy Code:

3d Anti corruption

Problem Statement:

Legislative and Regulatory control reforms to address corruption tend to be the largest set of measures and get the most attention; however, reliance on changing the laws or imposition of punishment for not following laws is insufficient to change ingrained behaviour. Functional and process reforms, which focus on embedding transparency and reinforcing corruption free behaviour is an important complementary second step.
In Malaysia, public service delivery systems are often outmoded, cumbersome, lack controls, require extended waiting time, and are open to multiple instances of corruption. Addressing this issue requires the strengthening and improving transparency, streamlining processes, creating open book public financial management, and implementing proper systems and controls

Value(s) and Belief(s):

Re-designing our public delivery systems to in line with the parameters below is key-
▪ simplify processes,
▪ reduce procedural complexities,
▪ automate cumbersome procedures,
▪ improve controls, and
▪ reduce waiting time
Such reforms may not address the ‘most severe’ corruption cases but improving such processes [nudge theory] can be the quickest way to gaining widespread public support against corruption1 and brings a long-term ripple effect of improved public delivery systems, and in turn allows more reform to be initiated.

Proposal of Solution:

1. Improve Administrative Processes to Improve Service Delivery
Simplification of existing public delivery systems, leveraging on the availability of technology to reduce procedural complexity and reduce wait time can significantly reduce opportunities for corruption.
2. Improve Public Financial Management (PFM)
Making treasury operations in all public service agencies clearer and more controlled; making budgets transparent, making spending against budgets transparent; improving all the processes around money reduce corruption substantially. In general, strengthening Public Financial Management can be the single most effective anti-corruption measure available to public officials.
3. Improve financial management processes
In addition to improving PFM, there are hundreds of more modest reforms to improve the integrity and transparency of basic financial management processes within public service agencies that will also make corruption harder. Proper budgeting process, making the annual budget public, tracking the spending against those budgets, etc. These small changes can be powerful.
4. Improve the Management Information Systems (MIS)
Improving the public service agency’s management information system is core to better institutional control of corruption. It is astonishing how many government entities in Malaysia have totally lacking MIS, preventing effective management, and enabling extensive corruption. MIS reform is not a ‘citizen-facing’ reform, but it has been shown to be effective in constraining corruption in many cases2.
5. Organization Reform of Government Ministries
Corrupt behavior is often seen to be more prevalent in some Government Ministries than in others. It may be that improvement to the level of corruption may require dismantling corrupt ‘networks’ via organizational reform, such as the removal of a division, or splitting the Ministry into separate pieces, or the converse, amalgamating overlapping agencies.

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