Improving cabinet efficiency

Making the System Work: Germany Coordinates a Response to COVID-19, 2020

Author
Gordon LaForge
Focus Area(s)
Core Challenge
Country of Reform
Abstract

When the first case of COVID-19 reached Germany in January 2020, the country’s world-class medical and scientific institutions snapped into action to contain—and learn from—an outbreak in Bavaria. As the pandemic escalated, Chancellor Angela Merkel, a scientist by training, based the government’s response on epidemiological models and expert advice. But Germany’s strictly federalized political system reserved power for the 16 states, not the central government. To coordinate the kind of nationwide response needed to curb the spread of the virus, Merkel’s government developed new coordination bodies that harmonized physical-distancing policies across the country. After a nationwide lockdown slowed the initial spread, a response model of federal government guidance and support but with decentralized, local implementation enabled Germany to quickly ramp up both testing and contact-tracing capacities. As a result, from January through October 2020, Germany contained the virus more effectively than any large country in Europe or North America. At year’s end, however, political consensus about how to respond to the virus broke down. With a vaccine on the horizon and the public tired of lockdowns, states hesitated to reimpose restrictions, and new infections surged.

Gordon LaForge drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in February 2021. Case published October 2021.

A Bumpy Road to Peace and Democracy: Liberia’s Power-Sharing Government, 2003 – 2005

Author
Tyler McBrien
Country of Reform
Abstract

In 2003, after 14 years of civil war and as many failed treaties, representatives of Liberia’s government, rebel groups, and civil society came together in Accra, Ghana, to negotiate a peace agreement. They chose Gyude Bryant, a businessman unaffiliated with any of the factions, to head a transitional government made up of ministers from the incumbent political party, the two main rebel groups, and independents, including opposition politicians and civil society leaders. Bryant’s primary goals were to maintain peace and pave the way for elections by the end of 2005—an assignment that entailed disarming and demobilizing more than 100,000 combatants, creating the means to deal with crucial issues ranging from truth and reconciliation to governance reform, and addressing a long list of other tasks—all of it under the scrutiny of Liberia’s legislature as well as regional and international organizations. Although successful democratic elections in late 2005 marked the achievement of Bryant’s primary aims, his fractious government failed to reach many other objectives, including building capacity and ensuring that resources earmarked for development served their intended purposes. The difficulties led to a novel, temporary system of governance—shared with international partners—that targeted procurement, spending, and other aspects of financial management. This case offers insights useful for planning transitions in low-income, divided societies where prolonged conflict has gutted institutional capacity.

Tyler McBrien drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Monrovia, Liberia in November 2019. Case published in January 2020.

This series highlights the governance challenges inherent in power sharing arrangements, profiles adaptations that eased those challenges, and offers ideas about adaptations. 

The United States Institute of Peace funded the development of this case study.

 

Reducing Inequality by Focusing on the Very Young: Boa Vista, Brazil, Deepens Its Investment in Early Childhood Development, 2017 – 2019

Author
Bill Steiden
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Abstract

Narrowing the gap between rich and poor was a top priority for Teresa Surita, five-time mayor of Boa Vista, Brazil. Surita had long viewed early childhood development services as crucial for improving life chances and attaining that goal, and she had partnered with several programs to expand parent coaching and other opportunities. As her fifth term began in 2017, she turned to a program called Urban95, which called for making a top priority the needs of young children and their families in all of the city’s planning and programs. Building on work the city had already done, Surita and her department heads undertook projects that included adapting a neighborhood to the needs of young children and their caregivers and building a cutting-edge data dashboard and alert system designed to ensure citizens would get help when they needed it. The city sought to keep those efforts on track while also extending assistance to families among the refugees fleeing deprivation and violence in neighboring Venezuela. As the term of the initial phase drew to a close in September 2019, municipal officials began to take stock of progress and results. Despite some philosophical disagreements and some uncertainties about the future of vital federal funding, the city was on track to achieve its project goals. 

Bill Steiden drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Boa Vista and Sao Paulo, Brazil, in July and August 2019. Case published October 2019. The Bernard van Leer Foundation supported this case study to foster early-stage policy learning.

 

More Than Good Elections: Ghana's Presidential Handover, 2007-2009

Author
Robert Joyce
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Abstract

The January 2009 presidential transition in Ghana, the West African country’s second democratic transfer of power between opposing parties, was a significant step in the nation’s democracy. A contentious handover eight years earlier had widened political divisions and hindered policy continuity. In the aftermath, leaders in government and civil society tried to create new norms and practices that would ease transitions. Ahead of the December 2008 election, the Institute of Economic Affairs, a Ghanaian public policy think tank that promoted good governance, led major political parties in talks aimed at setting rules for the presidential transition process. At the same time, a policy unit in President John Kufuor’s administration worked separately to improve the government’s procedures for transferring power. Although a tight timeline and political complications prevented both groups from achieving all of their goals, their work helped ease Ghana’s political tensions and improved the quality of information exchanged between the outgoing and incoming governments. The new government, led by President John Atta Mills, benefited from improved transition reports prepared by civil servants and aides who had taken part in the Institute of Economic Affairs talks. The changes helped the new administration organize, identify priorities, and maintain focus on effective projects and programs.

Robert Joyce drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Accra, Ghana, during July and August 2015. Case published in November 2015.

Charting a New Path: Indonesia’s Presidential Transition, 2014

Author
Robert Joyce
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Abstract

Indonesia’s 2014 presidential election opened a new era in the country’s political life. For the first time since 1998, when a 30-year period of authoritarian rule ended, a popularly elected president completed two full terms in office and ceded power to a successor from a different political party. The transition tested the leadership of the outgoing president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose cabinet included opponents of his elected successor, Joko Widodo. Governor of Jakarta and a former mayor, Jokowi, as the incoming president was popularly known, faced a steep learning curve, but Yudhoyono’s cooperation eased the challenge. The director of Yudhoyono’s innovative delivery unit, Kuntoro Magusubroto, worked with Jokowi’s transition team. The unit prepared reports and briefings that gave the incoming Jokowi team an overview of key policies and programs. Other ministries provided briefings that varied in depth. The cooperative tone of the 2014 transition was a welcome departure from prior divisive handovers. Nonetheless, as of 2016, there was still a need to adjust the timing of the five-year plan with regard to the transition period as well as provide a legal basis for transferring information between incumbent ministers and incoming government officers.

 

Robert Joyce drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Jakarta in May 2016. Case published August 2016.

Weathering the Storm: Felipe Calderón’s Office of the Presidency, Mexico, 2006-2012

Author
Robert Joyce
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Abstract

In 2006, incoming Mexican president Felipe Calderón had to work quickly to deliver on ambitious campaign promises that included improving infrastructure and confronting organized crime. Limited by his country’s constitution to one six-year term, Calderón, a hands-on manager, sought to ensure coordination and follow-through among members of his Cabinet by creating a strong Office of the Presidency. At first, he appointed Juan Camilo Mouriño, a close aide and political adviser, to head a centralized office that combined political and policy responsibilities in his chief-of-staff role. Later, Calderón moved Mouriño to the Cabinet, shifting political responsibilities out of the office, flattening the structure, and assuming more-direct management responsibility than he had exercised as president earlier. Mouriño’s untimely death later the same year coincided with twin crises that tested the office and the presidency. Although Calderón’s tenure demonstrated successful planning and coordination, his experience also illustrated the limitations of an organizational structure that relied too heavily on the chief executive’s participation.

Robert Joyce drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Mexico City in January 2015. Case published in June, 2015.

A Tense Handover: The 2010 Presidential Transition in the Philippines

Author
Robert Joyce
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Abstract

In 2010, political tensions in the Philippines threatened a stable transfer of presidential power. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was at the end of her tenure when Benigno Aquino III, son of two national heroes, won election in May. During the campaign, Aquino had accused Arroyo of corruption and mismanagement. Animosity, lack of planning by the outgoing administration, poor government transparency, and a weak political party system created obstacles to an effective handover in a country with a recent history of instability. However, a dedicated corps of career civil servants, a small but significant degree of cooperation between the incoming and outgoing administrations, and thin but effective planning by the Aquino side allowed for a stable though bumpy transition. The handover highlighted the importance of institutionalizing the transition process to avoid conflict and facilitate uninterrupted governance.

 

Robert Joyce drafted this case study on the basis of interviews conducted in Manila during November 2014. Case published April 2015. 

Momo Rogers

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Focus Area(s)
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1
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Michael Scharff
Name
Momo Rogers
Interviewee's Position
Director General
Interviewee's Organization
Cabinet Secretariat, Liberia
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Liberia
Town/City
Monrovia
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

Momo Rogers describes his work as Director General of Liberia’s Cabinet Secretariat. He traces the changes he made to improve the cabinet’s processes and his office’s relationships with the ministers. Staff from the African Governance Initiative (AGI) helped throughout the work he describes. His first order of business for the new ministry was shortening cabinet meetings. He implemented processes such as including indicative timing in the meeting’s agenda, producing a manual for cabinet ministers, and improving communication with the cabinet, and he details each change in this interview. By providing two to five page summaries of the lengthy policy documents, Rogers says he helped the cabinet ministers be more prepared for their meetings, make their work more efficient. As he explains, he improved the communication between the Cabinet Secretariat and the ministers by utilizing email and text messaging as well as by establishing personal relationships. He describes the trust and positive working relationships he set up, and how these contribute to his working and the cabinet’s overall functioning. For the future of the Cabinet Secretariat, Rogers hopes in addition to maintain their role as a facilitator, his office can be more involved in policy planning, particularly the early stages. In describing his own work, he talks about fostering a positive, productive relationship between the president and the cabinet and between the president and him, which he says improves as he becomes more familiar with those with whom he works.     

Case Study: Improving Decision Making at the Center of Government: Liberia's Cabinet Secretariat, 2009-2012

Profile

Momo Rogers was Director General of the Cabinet Secretariat at the time of this interview, after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called him to this position in 2009. Prior to this homecoming, Rogers was a journalism professor at several U.S. institutions, including Middle Tennessee State University and Delaware State College (now Delaware State University). He had previously taught at the University of Liberia, where he developed the department of Mass Communication. Early in his career he worked at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism. He received his doctorate in journalism and mass communication from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, with an emphasis on international communication and media history. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio State and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Lincoln University.       

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Mitch Daniels, Governor

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Focus Area(s)
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2
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Michael Scharff and Richard Messick
Name
Mitch Daniels, Governor
Interviewee's Position
Governor,
Interviewee's Organization
State of Indiana
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
American
Place (Building/Street)
Office of the Governor
Town/City
Indianapolis, Indiana
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

Mitch Daniels discusses the changes he implemented in his office, the center of Indiana state government, during his two terms as governor of Indiana. He begins by explaining the importance of enacting reforms quickly once in office. On his first day in office, he issued an executive order creating an Office of Management and Budget, which oriented the various state agencies that dealt with fiscal issues around a common set of goals. And he created an efficiency unit in the Office of Management and Budget that identified cost saving opportunities and measured and tracked agency performance. Also on his first day in office, despite concerns that the political fall-out would distract from other reforms, he scrapped public employees’ rights to collective bargaining with the unions, thus paving the way for sweeping organizational changes. He implemented a new performance management program and tied employees’ pay to their performance. Governor Daniels discusses how he built his reform team by recruiting talented people who were excited about the transitions he sought. He describes the process for conducting fair employee evaluations to monitor performance. He notes the advantages and difficulties of applying business skills to public sector work. Finally, he considers the durability of his reforms.

Case Study:  A New Approach to Managing at the Center of Government: Governor Mitch Daniels and Indiana, 2005-2012

In 2012, Mitch Daniels spoke at Princeton University about his reform efforts while governor of Indiana. Video of his speech is posted online.

Profile

Mitch Daniels is the 49th Governor of the State of Indiana and the author of the best-selling book, “Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Trusting Americans.” Although he had served as Chief of Staff to Senator Richard Lugar, Senior Advisor to President Ronald Reagan and Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush, his approach was molded in the private sector.

Before his service to Indiana, he had a successful career in business, holding numerous top management positions. And his work as CEO of the Hudson Institute and President of Eli Lilly and Company's North American Pharmaceutical Operations taught him the business skills he brought to state government.

And with those skills he led Indiana to its first balanced budget in eight years and, without a tax increase, transformed a $700 million deficit into an annual surplus of $370 million. He also repaid millions of dollars the state had borrowed from its public schools, universities and local units of government in previous administrations, while presiding over record-breaking investment and job growth. Today, Indiana has a AAA credit rating (the first in state history) and ranks near the top of every national ranking of business attractiveness.

His other groundbreaking accomplishments include the 2006 lease of the Indiana Toll Road, the largest privatization of public infrastructure in the United States to date, generating nearly $4 billion for reinvestment in the state’s record breaking 10-year transportation and infrastructure program; the creation of the Healthy Indiana Plan to provide healthcare coverage for uninsured Hoosier adults; a sweeping property tax reform in 2008 resulted in the biggest tax cut in Indiana history; and an emphasis on government efficiency that has led to many state agencies, including the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Department of Child Services, and Department of Correction winning national performance awards.  Indiana now has the fewest state employees per capita in the nation, and the fewest the state has had since 1975.

He was re-elected in 2008 to a second and final term, receiving more votes than any candidate for public office in the state’s history. Unsurprisingly, his second term has been as innovative as his first. In fact, earlier this year, under his guidance Indiana passed the most expansive education reforms in the country.  In 2012 Indiana became the first industrial northern state to adopt a Right to Work law. 

His tenure as Indiana's governor comes to an end in January 2013, when he begins the next chapter in his career as the 12th president of Purdue University. 
Full Audio File Size
61 MB
Full Audio Title
Mitch Daniels Interview

Gord Evans

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Focus Area(s)
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6
Interviewers
Michael Scharff
Name
Gord Evans
Interviewee's Position
Former Cabinet Consultant
Interviewee's Organization
Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC)
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Canadian
Town/City
Princeton, New Jersey
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract
Gord Evans, as an examiner for the World Bank, discusses the improvement of the effectiveness of cabinet offices. He explains why the head of the state would want to improve their cabinet, detailing how they need the machinery of government to work well for them to help them govern. He talks about how the improvements of the respective cabinets depend on the type of government dynamics that are present. Evans talks about how there are high-level and low-level reforms. The high-level reforms are those that are ambitious, and challenging due to their complexity. In great contrast, the low-level reforms often pertain to administrative issues, those that are less difficult to adjust, such as not enough people to complete a certain task. He talks and elaborates about the biggest implementation challenges he has seen across countries referring to both levels of reform. Evan explains how there are not universal steps or changes that usually produce the biggest improvements in cabinet office performance, and how it is dependent upon the devotion of the prime minister and how sold they are in the reform’s initial proposal. Evans then talks about delivery units, and gives his opinion on the matter, stating how their ability to work is different in a parliamentary system versus a presidential system. He also talks about how official prioritize issues that they focus upon. 
Profile

At the time of this interview, Gord Evans was an examiner of the effectiveness of cabinet offices for the World Bank. He had extensive experience studying and supporting cabinet office effectiveness. He had prior experience, working in the cabinet office in the government of Ontario, Canada. There he had the title of Deputy Clerk of the Executive Council, where he sat in on the cabinet and committee meetings and took the minutes. After doing this for eight years, he thought it would be time for a career switch and believed that it would be interesting to go out and work internationally. He desired to work with cabinet offices around the world; and luckily around this time the World Bank gained interest in studying things like prime minister, cabinets, and cabinet offices. Therefore, Evans was able to work with the World Bank and help them develop an approach to the examination of cabinet offices. Now, 14-15 years later, the program has been successful, and Evans has worked in approximately 30 countries.  

Full Audio File Size
39 MB
Full Audio Title
Gordon Evans - Full Interview