Requete – Civil Service structure

I supported the amended requete on the accountability of the civil service. Here’s my speech.

 

Sir. It seems a long time ago that I signed this requete. Oh It was – over 4 months ago. Since then England cricketers have won the Ashes, a Scottish tennis player has won Wimbledon and Guernsey footballers have won promotion and started playing a new season.

I signed the requete back in May because of my concerns about the accountability and political oversight of the civil service arising from the changes that have led to the growth of what is becoming known as ‘the centre’.  Contrary to what the Chief Minister said yesterday, there has clearly been a growth of work done from the centre. FTP and SAP are just 2 examples. However, that doesn’t mean I believe centralisation is wrong per se.  Having been a Chief Operating Officer myself, developing and running centralised operations, I completely understand the practical benefits and why there is a trend for ‘central teams’, at least in some areas. The centralisation of certain services, such as income collection and payment processing  should bring benefits – eventually.

 

 

The following is an extract from a Media Release quoting the Chief Executive at the time of restructuring within Treasury & Resources and following the departure of the Chief Officer of Treasury & Resources last year;

 

“There has been a great deal of managed change in the civil service since the last Machinery of Government review, and from the beginning of 2011 that pace has accelerated. The drive for efficiency, corporate delivery and accountability is at the heart of these changes.

It is clear that change has happened, whether this has led to more efficiency, corporate delivery and accountability is debatable, and as I stated during the GSP debate, the change management process has left a lot to be desired, which has been particularly evident in the FTP and SAP implementations.

My concern is that centralization is all well and good, but this brings with it a greater need for transparency in terms of responsibilities and accountability in relation to outcomes and I will elaborate on this further in a minute.

 

Since the Requete was signed  we have debated the Government Service Plan and Strategic Asset Management Plan. It was clear from both debates and the successful amendments that many in this Assembly shared the concerns about the accountability and political oversight of proposed committees of civil servants tasked with taking forward each plan. Not only that, but the SAMP had it not been amended, would have resulted in a relocation of the chief officers without proper consideration of what the impact would be operationally and politically.

 

I believe that life has moved on since the requete was placed and therefore welcome this amendment placed by Deputy St Pier, which I believe sets the right direction on where we need to go from here.

I won’t go through each one of the propositions but would like to comment on the one that I am pleased is retained in substantial form from that in the requete and is the reason why I signed it back in May.

Proposition 6 directs that, where appropriate, there should be internal service level agreements within the States of Guernsey, including in respect of services provided by the Shared Transaction Service Centre (“the Hub”), in order to provide for clear definition of responsibilities and clear lines of accountability.

 

Service level agreements have been defined as the means by which two parties communicate to each other their commitments in relation to the resourcing and provision of services to a given level, over a given period.

So what does that mean in practice? Well, here I set out the purpose of the service level agreement in place between the Johns Hopkins Accounts Payable Shared Service Center and its customers.  It states that the SLA will:

  • outline services to be offered and working assumptions between the Shared Service Center and its customers;
  • quantify and measure service level expectations;
  • outline the potential methods used to measure the quality of service provided;
  • define mutual requirements and expectations for critical processes and overall performance;
  • strengthen communication between shared service providers and its customers;
  • provide a vehicle for resolving conflicts.

 

And it is not just about quality of service. Organisations have found that they have made cost savings of between 5-40% by introducing SLAs.

But what is the best thing about bringing in SLAs is that developing them requires collaborative working and if we are going to see long lasting effective change in the States of Guernsey we will only see it through working together. SLAs should be standard for centrally provided services and any central operational body should be subject to a service level agreement. This whould include those tasked with the proposed central committee mentioned in the Strategic Asset Management Plan, and should have been developed at the start of the Financial Transformation Programme.

There seems to have been some idea promulgated that those signing the requete are conspiracy theorists – that there is a plot by the centre to take over the States of Guernsey. That tone was evident in the paper we received about the ELT yesterday as well as from the Chief Minister’s speech.

Well, that’s not why I signed this requete. I signed it because I felt greater accountability was required arising from the major organisational changes that have taken place in the civil service, thus enabling the States of Guernsey to deliver greater value for money.

 

So I would respond to the Chief Minister when he reminded those, like me, who stated in their manifesto that they wanted to see joined up government and more openness and transparency, that is precisely why I supported the need for more accountability through Service Level agreements in the requete  and why I am happy to support this amendment now.

I would therefore urge Members to do the same.



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Email: heidi@heidisoulsby.com