Government issues public administration reform proposals

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In June 2003, the Portuguese government issued a set of discussion papers setting out proposals for reform of the public administration, with the aim of making it more flexible. Along with organisational and management changes, the proposals include new assessment procedures and training measures for civil servants. Trade unions have complained of a lack of dialogue and consultation on the reform

On 24 June 2003, the government published three public discussion papers on reform of the public administration, covering: the organisation of the direct state administration; the status of management personnel in the public administration; and a new framework law for public institutes. The objective of the proposed reform is to create a more flexible structure in order to enhance development and improve productivity. The new public administration organisational model is based on: defining roles and objectives; more flexible structures; a slimmed-down decision-making chain and less bureaucracy; encouraging systematic cooperation between government departments; knowledge-sharing; and proper information management.

The proposed reforms will have an impact on three areas:

  • organisation. The aim is an organisational model for the public administration closer to the business model, with civil servants, managers and administrative departments being target-led, as happens in the private sector. The aim is also to introduce individual contracts of employment, clearly setting out the nature and scope of each employment, while improvements are also planned in public areas that compete with the private sector, such as health and education;
  • leadership and responsibility. The major change will be in management, which will become target-led, with more emphasis on responsibility. Managers will have more powers and responsibilities, and their status will be clarified; and
  • human resources and training. An 'integrated performance assessment system' (Sistema Integrado de Avaliação do Desempenho) will be set up, involving individual assessment of civil servants, managers, bodies and departments. Civil servant assessment will take account of their individual merits and the extent to which they achieve the objectives of their post. Those graded as 'excellent' will have their names published in a 'list of honour'. Career advancement will depend on the assessment results. The assessment of bodies and departments will be carried out by outside entities, from Portugal or further afield, who will produce reports on the activities of these departments and bodies. As regards training, the main aim is to enhance the training of civil servants, by adding a 'multi-skill' dimension and improving job mobility.

According to trade unions representing civil servants, the methods used by the government to draft the papers did not adhere to the principle of social dialogue in the public administration. They are unilateral government proposals, and the trade unions merely received a formal invitation to their presentation. Unions regret that the government has not set a date to meet civil servants' representatives to discuss the reform’s details, and believe that the leeway for negotiation appears to be quite limited, the government simply stating that it is open to contributions.

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