This project was proposed by Mrs. J.M. Thilaka Jayasundara, Head of the National Productivity Organization Sri Lanka, to bring together APO member countries to discuss concerns that delimit local government to deliver quality services and to increase productivity; and, to share successful experiences in these areas for possible replication in their respective countries, in terms of tools, methods and strategies.
In the everyday operations of local governments, it cannot be denied that all sorts of challenges in service delivery hunt their door steps, be it political, economic, social, or environmental. But they cannot do without facing all these for they are there as the machinery of the state mandated to oversee the welfare of their constituents and the environment they live in. They need to address every bit and piece of the barriers that impedes development by coming up with appropriate tools, methods and strategies.
OBJECTIVES OF THE PROJECT
• Observe and learn the best practices of local government service delivery and productivity;
• Exchange information on challenges faced by local governments with regard to improving the quality and productivity of service delivery;
• Review and develop the relationship between productivity promotion strategies and performance management of local governments and proposed appropriate methodology for their management;
• Identify the institutional requirements and settings for developing people-centered local government authorities;
• Make recommendations on how local governments can be more efficient and effective;
OBJECTIVES FOR PARTICIPATION
• To gain new ideas and concepts on how to improve service delivery and enhance productivity from the inputs of the experts and the co-participants;
• To learn from the experiences of some LGUs in Sri Lanka that have increased their standards in services delivery and enhanced their productivity. The insights gained can serve as inputs in the formulation of policies and development of programs and project for LGUs; and,
• To witness the replication of practices learned by some local governments of Sri Lanka from other countries, and know how they did it or how they are doing it.
17 participants from 13 countries, excluding Ms. Aleli Nario Hernandez, Chief Budget and Management Specialist, Department of Budget and Management, Philippines plus 6 representatives from Sri Lanka
OUTCOMES AND EVALUATION
Generally, the training was productive and fruitful. It was light, in terms of methodologies used by the experts, such as lectures, and Workshops from Ms. Kate Johnson on the topics: 1- Methodology for Local Government in Measuring Citizen Satisfaction: Productivity and Service Quality Indicators, and 2- Services and Productivity Benchmarking for Local Government, for it facilitated learning.
The participants were attentive in the 5 days training duration. Though, English language barrier was a factor for other participants not to actively participate in the discussion. But then, some of them were given the opportunity to present their country papers orally by reading their manuscripts, and it was worth listening to their presentations.
The representative from Taiwan shared the profiles of Taiwan, and of Taitung City. Other presenters did the same by sharing demographics about their countries. Some of them included a slight discussions on the topic they have chosen from the three choices required, namely: Barriers to Service Improvement and Productivity Enhancement for Local Government; Strategies to Improve Efficiency for Local Public Authorities; Measuring Service and Productivity; and Service and Productivity Benchmarking. However, participants from other countries were not able to present their country papers because the presenters exceeded the 10-minute allotment provided for each presentation, and the time provided for the presentation was only 1.5 hours. I was one of those who did not present, but submitted a copy of the country paper to the NPS.
Ms. Johnson facilitated the process. She preselected the presenters, and the sequence of presentation by country.
It is also relevant to note that, the variation of resource person’s expertise in the field of service delivery and productivity was just appropriate. Ms. Johnston from Canada, concentrated on benchmarking and citizens’ satisfaction; Dr. Nowook Park from South Korea, focused on barriers and challenges in local government productivity improvement, result-based performance management, and performance budgeting; and Dr. Anwar Sanusi from Indonesia, focused on people’s participation, and people-centered local government.
The sharing of the good stories on these fields based on their country’s experiences, provided us a wider spectrum on what good practice could possibly be introduced to or adopted by LGUs in our own country.
It was also worth mentioning the insights from the sharings of the two experts from Sri Lanka on their experiences in said fields, from the perspective of a central government and a municipal council.
Mr. W.M.M.B. Weerasekara, Controller of the Visa and Border Management of the Department of Immigration and Emigration, shared his thoughts on the topic: Best Practice of Sri Lankan People-Centered Local Government.” And, Honorable Kesaralal Gunasekera, Deputy Mayor of the Dehiwala Mount Lavinia Municipal Council, on the topic: Best Practice of Sri Lankan Effort to Overcome Barriers to Productivity Improvement in Local Government.
Mr. Gunasekera articulated very well how their council plays an important role in improving its services and increasing its productivity from the robust challenges they faced in the past. One good example was on garbage collection or solid waste management. When we had our field visit in the areas of Dehiwala, it was evident that the council really did a good job in addressing such problem. The roads/streets, whether these are highways, main or service roads, no garbage can be seen, and even in waterways. According to him, their council has enacted an ordinance imposing that, no garbage shall be collected if not segregated into biodegradable and non-biodegradable. If unsegregated garbage is seen in surroundings of residential or business establishment, the owner will be fined, imprisoned, or both.
The field visits were likewise knowledge gaining. The opportunity to go around the Municipal Council Office provided us a good perspective on how a local government in Sri Lanka looks like, and operates in terms of the condition of the work environment; the services it is providing; and, the people manning it, among others.
Generally, the place was clean and tidy, the charts on the services provided by each department/units were posted on the walls of the room entrance, their restrooms were clean, and elevators were available. But the most noticeable ones included the staffing pattern, of which only few people manned per unit or department, which is opposite in some of our LGUs, which has a bloated staffing pattern due to political accommodation; and, the number of people transacting business. At the time when we were going around the building, it was observed that there was only a finger-count people transacting business in some of their units or offices, and the rest, there was none.
The Municipality of Deliwala Mount Lavinia has a population of 233,290, with a land area of 21 kilometers, but their economic activities were “on the go” and “up the ladder,” and obviously, it already looks like some of our cities here in the Philippines outside of Metro Manila.
There are assumptions that could be drawn from these two observations. First is, the higher the efficiency level of the service delivery, the lower the propensity of the clients to visit the offices; and second is that, efficiency in service delivery promotes peace and order and Public safety, i.e. orderliness and cleanliness of surroundings: thoroughfares; river ways; and traffic system (In Colombo district, where Dehiwala Mount Lavinia is a component, the maximum speed limit of vehicles is 40 kph., except in superhighways, which is 100 kph).
But the most significant memoir in my visit to Dehiwala was the council-managed public cemetery, a gauge that we can tell that government’s responsibility (national and local), indeed starts from birth or cradle, and end to death or grave, of its people.
The visit to this area, taught me to rekindle the realities in our country, wherein our poorest countrymen are buried, as if they have not lived worthwhile on this earth, like those poor farmers who have cultivated rice to feed the many.
In our country, I am quite sure that local executives will never bring their visitors in their public cemetery because it will not be pleasing to the eyes, unlike what Dehiwala’s officials had done. It is quite disheartening that I personally witnessed that some of our departed ones were buried in cemeteries flooded with waters during wet season or, were buried along the shorelines, where there is a propensity that their graves could be wiped-out by waves during high tides.
The public cemetery, for me, is the gauge of how well a local government had performed. It is the “ultimate proof” to tell that it had done a genuine service to its community.
Our visit to the Provincial Office of the Department of Local Government, Western Province, was likewise worthwhile. Though the structure is quite crowded, while expecting to transfer to a new building by next year, they still manage to keep their office orderly and tidy, simply because they have imbibed the “5s” principles as a way of life in the workplace. Women empowerment was too obvious because the executive benches of the department are occupied by women, and most of them are considered millennial.
In summary, I would say that the study mission was really a “mission of a lifetime”. A mission to learn from another world that belong to the same earth where everyone lives. A mission where we could get together to share our thoughts that will make this living planet to become a better place to live not only for our generation, but also for the next generations to come.
BLESILDA RACHEL PAULE
Department of the Interior and Local Government
Email: blesie0325 @ yahoo.com