Rein in the bureaucracy if you want us to deliver,perform: private sector stars in govt let PM know

PM has asked his Pulok Chatterjee to study the suggestions and take necessary action

Written by P Vaidyanathan Iyer | New Delhi | Published: March 30, 2012 1:27 am

Former corporate heavyweights who are now part of the government ‘system’ have asked the Prime Minister to streamline the institutional framework in which they work,so that they have more autonomy and are better able to achieve desired outcomes.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked his principal secretary Pulok Chatterjee to study the suggestions and take necessary action.

The pressure on the government for greater room has come from Sam Pitroda,adviser to the PM on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations,Nandan Nilekani,chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India,S Ramadorai,adviser to the PM in the National Skill Development Council,Planning Commission member Arun Maira,and National Intelligence Grid CEO P Raghu Raman.

High profile lateral entrants into the government find it frustrating when the rulebook is thrown at them,often by the bureaucracy. Pitroda met the Prime Minister as the representative of this group recently,and presented a five-point strategy to design government organisations so that they deliver better.

“This system (what we have now) was designed by the British Raj to maintain status quo. It is not for faster development,something that we need today,” Pitroda told The Indian Express.

Pitroda’s note suggests that whenever an agency or entity is formed or carved out of the government to carry out a specific function,its chief executive must be given considerable operational freedom and autonomy. The PM must support these agencies by setting up a monitoring and facilitation cell in his office,the note says.

According to the note,the chief executive of the proposed organisation must have domain knowledge and a track record of creating and managing organisations that deliver. Existing organisations whose governance has been corroded by interference from entrenched government systems,should also be assisted by the cell in the PMO.

Finally,all government departments must be pushed to apply this concept of “agencification” — the process of agencies being carved out of government departments to carry out specific executive functions within a mandate and framework of policy provided by the relevant ministry — to improve delivery performance.

The letter and a three-page note that Pitroda handed the PM was provoked by a shared frustration lateral entrants into the government in important positions felt. In January,Raghu Raman shared his feelings with a group of eminent people including Ramadorai,Nilekani and Maira. This triggered the move to request Pitroda to broach the issue with the PM.

Earlier,under the ambit of the National Innovations Council,Pitroda and Maira had met secretaries to various government departments to understand their innovation efforts. The feedback suggested that the government was itself the bottleneck in efficient public service delivery.

“The government machinery does not perform,it comes in the way of innovation — this is what the secretaries told us,” Maira told The Indian Express.

Raghu Raman,who was earlier CEO of Mahindra Special Services Group,has been struggling to hire private sector professionals for the last 18 months at NATGRID.

Maira,a former India chief of the Boston Consulting Group,hit a wall recently in his attempts to reform the Quality Council of India,a government-private sector initiative. He resigned last week after 18 months as QCI chairman,after the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry did not allow him to recruit a secretary general as per the profile decided by the QCI board.

Raghu Raman said,“One has to realise that such roles have extremely contradictory requirements: bias towards results or outcomes — which is expected from the private sector — and an extraordinary focus on process — which is the government’s mindset.”

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