Recognising the problem of agencies working in silos and lack of coordination, an annual performance agreement (APA) month is now dedicated for ministries and agencies to discuss the APA targets together.
The APA, initiated in 2013, is a basis for evaluating overall performance of ministries and agencies. It was supposed to address the issues of how poor implementation hampered good planning. Eight years after it was established, we are still talking about the same old issues in coordination.
We hear of APA every year when the prime minister signs it with ministers, head of agencies and dzongdags and during the mid-term review when ministries and agencies cite various reasons for not being able to fulfill the unrealistic targets it set.
As a mechanism set to monitor, solve problems and evaluate the performance of government agencies in an objective manner, APAs are significant. It was supposed to enhance service delivery, but besides the drive to score outstanding ratings, there is no evidence to show how it helped the service users. It, in fact, forced ministries and agencies to set unrealistic targets.
Initiating the APA month to strengthen the existing process is a good move. It will examine the causes of coordination problems and explore mechanisms to improve it. It will ensure the targets are realistic, achievable and there is no duplication. Discussing the targets together with 10 ministers, secretaries and heads of relevant agencies should help in coordinating how to implement the targets.
With the secretaries of both the finance ministry and Gross National Happiness Commission attending the APA month meeting, ministries and agencies would know the budget availability.
However, success of the new attempt or initiative will ultimately depend on when and how serious officials are in implementing it. We are known for being good planners, but not implementors. Our bureaucracy is synonymous to initiating grand programmes, but without continuity and seriousness. This is the reason why we have many plans, policies, acts, rules and regulations that are not implemented or poorly implemented. So initiating an APA month will not translate to proper coordination and results if those attending it are not serious.
Success of the APA month would depend on the implementers. If things should be resolved and moved faster, deliberations amongst executives should reach down to the ground implementers. If the people who work on the ground are not aware of the discussion, the coordination issues will not resolve. We need proactive and professional agency heads for department-to-department partnership, which would result in better coordination to achieve a common goal.
APA month should make the agencies work together. It should make organisation accountable for results. Organisational goals should have quality and progress.
The government should also strengthen its APA assessment and evaluation processes and declare the results just like signing the agreements. What started on a good beginning should have a good ending too.