Fixing APA for better results

Yangchen C Rinzin 

The Annual Performance Agreement (APA) targets from the next fiscal year will be determined not by the respective agencies alone but together with the Prime Minister.

Government Performance Management Division (GPMD) will introduce APA formulation month wherein that month the division would dedicate an entire month for the preparation of APA.

Targets would be prepared with all the government agencies where Prime Minister will go through each target himself, including Gross National Happiness Commission to set realistic targets, according to an official from Prime Minister Office (PMO).

Although APA’s formulation month was planned in March and supposed to be implemented in July during the preparation for APA for 2020-2021 Fiscal Year, it could not be implemented.

Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and shift in the prioritised, planned activities of the 12th Plan, it is deferred to December

The first Covid-19 case in March was reported and hampered the plans. Another reason was the shift in the priorities of activities in each agencies starting from reprioritisation of 12th Plan and budget allocation.

“Almost all agencies had to be involved in the fight against Covid-19, and then GNHC asked us to wait, as there would be major changes in the 12th Plan,” the officer said.

This meant even if APA is signed, the targets would be meaningless, as the Plans kept changing and there was no option to stick to targets set in draft APA.

However, with some clear directives and focus on reprioritisation of 12th Plan almost ready, agencies are asked to set targets and incorporate emerging prioritise, which would give clear targets.    

“We’ll not be able to implement APA’s formulation month as planned. So, it will be implemented from the next fiscal year, which is 2021-2022,” the official said.

The signing of APA takes place after the Parliament passes the recommended budget in the Summer session. APA was established in 2013 to institutionalise government performance management system (GPMS).

The GPMS is a mechanism to monitor, solve problems and to evaluate the performance of government agencies in an objective manner.

Why APA’s formulation month?

Based on the lessons from 2019-2020 APA review, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering had pointed out on the shortcomings of APA, especially in the process of setting a target for each agency.

A senior official from the PMO said that prime minister had said that all targets were set broadly.

“The prime minister said all APAs did not consider the result or impact that would  manifest in people’s lives or country’s economic status,” the official said. “Which is why the prime minister wanted to dedicate a whole month to prepare it and wanted to go through each target before the final document and signing.”

The APA, which is a basis for evaluating overall performance at the end of the year, is primarily signed between the prime minister and ministers, head of autonomous agencies, and dzongdags—then followed by signing between the management of respective agencies and at an individual level.

Only once the APA is prepared then the finance ministry will allocate the budget. The APA’s formulation month while ensuring targets are realistic, it will also ensure agencies do not face budget constraints.

The agencies will then have meaningful and relevant targets for that particular year, he said.

Lyonchhen during the signing of APAs in 2019 said that APAs should be more result-oriented, which was missing in the current APAs. Even at the cost of delay, Lyonchhen said that he wanted to ensure the agencies and the government were on the same page.

“It’s important to sit together with the agencies, prioritise the components to align with national goals and the government’s priorities. The compacts are signed after the Parliament approves the budget, and this should change where agencies should first come with achievable national goals and then propose the budget,” Lyonchhen earlier said.

APA is here to stay 

With no directives or information, many civil servants questioned if the APA for 2020-2021 would be signed since the draft was prepared by respective agencies and submitted to GPMD.

However, the official from PMO said that APA is here to stay as it is one aspect of government performance management system. “It’s an important process in the whole governance mechanism to ensure accountability and responsibility,” the official said.

The official said that GPMD has drafted an APA policy and would be adopted soon. “Government is going all out to strengthen responsibility and accountability. Without APA, there is no basis for evaluating the Individual Work Plan.”

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