Quote of the week
“She has a tremendous amount of common sense, judgment, a very effective communicator and tremendous interpersonal skills.”
The new Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Yaprak Baltacioglu, takes over the government’s management board as the feds continue to look for more ways to save money within government and are placing more political controls on spending (witness the new ministerial approval required for departmental-related events that cost over $25,000).
She will need to use her “common sense, judgment and interpersonal skills” as she works through the practical implications – the “how” – of the present government’s transformation of the federal public service.
One area relates to the core role of government, and from that, its structure and size. The government envisages a smaller, more agile public service: how will it adjust faster to align to new priorities and objectives?
Another area is service delivery. Historically government has taken on the responsibility of ensuring that citizens get the services they need, even if it uses other sectors to get there.
It is one thing to work with, or essentially commission, other sectors to do the job for you. But if the government wants to get out of a business entirely, it needs to convince other sectors to take on the responsibility. Parts of the government are exploring the social impact bond concept, where other sectors are contracted and paid based on achieving identified performance measures.
In this area, the balance will need to be right. It is hard to believe that government can wash its hands of all areas; security comes to mind. While government might like to say that it has offloaded a service to the private sector, and made it accountable, citizens will point the finger to it if things fall apart. Witness the security fiasco at the London Olympics, or the SARS outbreak and Walkerton, both of which provided proof of this reality for the Harris government in Ontario.
A third area relates to the culture of government, which may be the biggest challenge for the new Secretary. As noted by the President of the Treasury Board, the Clerk and Don Drummond, the public service needs to move away from the layering on of programs and the hoarding of big budgets; Minister Clement calls it “stewardship.” Ways will need to be found to build approaches and systems that reward effective and thrifty management.