6: Public Sector – Management and Program Design

This session was chaired by Mr Irfan Elahi (Chairman Planning & Development Board, Government of Punjab).

Rema Hanna (Harvard Kennedy School) presented her project titled “Deal with the Devil: The Successes and Limitations of Bureaucratic Reform in India”. The researchers of this project, in collaboration the Government of Karnataka, carried out randomised controlled trial in 322 Public Health Centres in 5 districts of Karnataka to investigate how to monitor and incentivise bureaucrats. They found that monitoring and incentives improve attendance of lower health staff and improve health indicators however other forms of corruption rise.

Imran Rasul (University Collage, London) presented his project titled “Management of Bureaucrats and Public Service Delivery: Evidence from the Nigerian Civil Service”. Exploiting data from the Nigerian Civil Service, the researchers study how the management practices that bureaucrats operate under, correlate to the quantity and quality of public services delivered. They find that giving workers autonomy leads to higher project completion rates (18%) and an increase in montioring and evaluation leads to significantly lower project completion rates (14%). This latter result is because bureaucrats multi-task and incentives are poorly targeted, and because these management practice capture elements of subjective performance evaluation that further leave scope for dysfunctional responses from bureaucrats.

Michael Callen (University of California Los Angeles) presented his project titled “Who you select matters for Public Sector Performance: Experimental Evidence from Pakistan”. Researchers of the project examine the relationship between policymaker personalities, job performance, and response to reforms in Punjab combining: (i) personality tests and measures of integrity within health inspectors and senior health officials and a large and representative sample of doctors; (ii) measures of job performance from unannounced visits to health facilities; (iii) a randomized controlled evaluation of a novel smart phone monitoring technology; (iv) experimental manipulations of the presentation of data on doctor absence to senior health officials. They found that personality positively predicts doctor attendance and negatively predict whether doctors collude with inspectors to falsify reports. They also find that smart phone monitoring has the largest impact on doctors with high public sector motivation and senior health officials with high personality test scores.

Two discussants, Mr. Murad Ali Shah (Advisor to CM Sindh on Finance) and Dr. Prabhat Ghosh (Country Co-Director, IGC India Bihar) apart from incentives to improve performance – how to keep motivation of lower level staff working in the difficult areas of the country is also an important issue. They further said that any operational change in the current bureaucratic system might result in success at the initial stages but can’t be sustainable because bureaucrats will adjust to the new system and rules in a few months and find out ways around the new changes/rules.

They also said that what needs to be done (for sustainable change in current system to achieve better results) is institutional reform by political leaders. Unless political leaders decide to reforms institutions- change won’t happen.

By Vikas Dimble, Country Economist, IGC India-Central