I read the viewpoint, headlined – “Complacency Prolongs Subpar Reforms” (Volume 14, Number 692, August 4, 2013) by Yohannes Woldegebriel. It was intended to provide a reply to my previous commentary. Yohannes offered a confusing analysis of my view, and made a lot of points regarding the issue of reforms from his own viewpoint.

Interestingly, his reply is slightly baffling as he was misguided in his inference of my stance, mentioning – “it is apparent Fikadu gravitates, in favour, towards the success of BPR” and desires “to seize the opportunity in the course of outsourcing and take the advantage once again”. Besides, the fact that the viewpoint thoughtlessly included (Balanced Score Card) in its arguments, I wish Yohannes could say more about it and other reforms, rather than singling out Business Process Reengineering (BPR).

The very issue Yohannes argued against is the success of BPR in the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the former Ministry of Trade & Industry (MoTI). Actually, the case was employed to have a balanced view, rather than being biased.

And, there is a source about the early success story of these two ministries, though this is not a guarantee for their current status. Getachew Hailemariam and Richard Common’s research, entitled – “Civil Service Reform in Ethiopia: Success in two Ministries” – tells the story concisely.

That is exactly why I focused on the problem of sustainability, at least to keep the positive aspects of the reform.

Evidently, I did not preach the success story of BPR any more than Yohannes did in his reply. But, he failed to tell us what makes the “Documents Authentication & Registration Office” better in implementing BPR and why, for example, the Immigration and Nationality Affairs Main Department could not scale-up this practice.

Moreover, Yohannes is very sure about the purpose of BPR as a “irreplaceable political weapon to remove undesirable individuals”. He is a lawyer and could provide us with any number of recorded court cases in relation to those civil servants who studied abroad and were forced out of the sector.

In any way, it is impractical to think that BPR is introduced to dislodge highly experienced civil servants and young researchers who studied abroad. What percentage of civil servants belong to this category, pre and post-BPR implementation?

This may require further research to answer comprehensibly, rather than offerign mere presumption.

However, it is really important to note the unmet targets of BPR implementation. One can also compare the relative service delivery status of pre- and post-BPR in many government organisations.

At least the ceremonial commencement and announcement of “efficient and effective” service delivery by different offices, should allow the service seekers to ask where the improved service delivery is. The essence of radical and transformational change in the business process left on paper, as I stated, “more recalled than practiced”.

Besides, I argued that BPR championed restructuring office layouts and the budget allocated outweighed the benefit. Of course, I have not accounted or acquired evidence on how much was spent, but Yohannes perceived this as an intentionally omitted fact. Yet, there is room for him to come up with tangible information I wish I could get my hands on.

Yohannes’ argument, which states that “BPR always offered a good opportunity for subtle, unscrupulous and ambitious civil servants” seems absurd. There should be a human resource development plan in any organisation; no matter how it might be abused in favour of the dearest and the nearest.

Thus, it is not BPR that brought about such malpractices. The past civil service, even without BPR, suffered from such pitfalls.

What BPR did was to bring civil servants the complex task of daily individual performance appraisal in the early phase, and later bi-weekly. It made things tighter than the way Yohannes argued, although these days things are in reverse.

The misunderstood hard fact in Yohannes’ viewpoint is the lack of job ranking and incentive packages within the BPR implementation. The problem came about because many civil servants were not paid for the position they held and waited for almost two years.

However, I am still not arguing on the amount of pay that is adequate for a given position.  It is indeed a fact that many civil servants were afraid of losing their posts in the early days of the BPR, after which they suddenly gained hope in attaining a fair payment for the position they held.

The contrasting reality demotivated many civil servants. Yohannes’ article said nothing about the current state of public service delivery and manifestations, which I stated, citing the public meetings held in Addis Ababa and issues frequently raised that needed to be addressed sooner or later.

After showering me with dozen critiques on the issues I raised earlier, Yohannes ended up with too general recommendations; some not wholly different to what I stated. He indicated the necessity of “valid reforms” and “real and sustainable change”.

What are these reforms and changes? Are they reform tools?

He even added “proper studies” to his list of recommendations, though he criticised the knowledge-based and bottom-up approach of mine. But, I concur with him on the necessity of practicable legal support for the reforms we are implementing. Equally important will be the citizens’ role in demanding improved service delivery.


By Fekadu Nigussa
Fekadu Nigussa is a lecturer at the Ethiopian Civil Service University (ECSU). He can be contacted at nigussaf@yahoo.com.

Published on Addis Fortune August 11, 2013 [ Vol 14 ,No 693]