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The UK System Of Government

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The UK System Of Government

First of all we are going to take a look at the Uk system of government, because it is very different than the Romanian one.

The United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch. A king or queen is the head of state, and a prime minister is the head of government. The people vote in elections for Members of Parliament (MPs) to represent them. The United Kingdom doesn’t have a single, written constitution (a set of rules of government). But this doesn’t mean that the UK has an ‘unwritten constitution’. In fact, it is mostly written – but instead of being one formal document, the British constitution is formed from various sources including statute law, case law made by judges, and international treaties. There are also some unwritten sources, including parliamentary conventions and royal prerogatives.

Politics in the United Kingdom takes place within the framework of a constitutional monarchy, in which the monarch (Queen Elizabeth II) is head of state and the prime minister is the head of the UK government. The monarchy is the oldest institution of government in the United Kingdom. The UK’s monarchy is considered the oldest of all modern constitutional monarchies (others exist in countries including Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain and Monaco). Most of the powers once exercised by the monarch have now been devolved (transferred) to ministers. In certain circumstances, however, the monarch retains the power to exercise personal discretion over issues such as appointing the prime minister and dissolving Parliament, even though these powers may never be used in practice, or may only be exercised symbolically. As a result of a long process of change during which the monarchy’s absolute power has been gradually reduced, custom now dictates that the Queen follows ministerial advice.

The Cabinet is a formal body made up of the most senior government ministers chosen by the prime minister. It is the committee at the centre of the British political system and the supreme decision-making body in government.Most members are heads of government departments with the title ‘Secretary of State’. Formal members of the Cabinet are drawn exclusively from the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Most ministers are members of the House of Commons, although the government is also fully represented by ministers in the House of Lords. The composition of governments can vary both in the number of ministers and in the titles of some offices. New ministerial offices may be created, others may be abolished, and functions may be transferred from one minister to another.

The UK is a parliamentary democracy. The UK Parliament is a ‘sovereign parliament’ – this means that the legislative body has ‘absolute sovereignty’, in other words it is supreme to all other government institutions, including any executive or judicial bodies. This stems from there being no single written constitution, and contrasts with notions of judicial review, where, if the legislature passes a law that infringes on any of the basic rights that people enjoy under their (written) constitution, it is possible for the courts to overturn it. In the UK, it is still Parliament (and not the judges) that decides what the law is. Judges interpret the law, but they do not make the law.

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The UK has a unitary system of government, meaning a system where power is held in the centre, although some powers have been devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The UK has a civil service that acts impartially and doesn’t change when the government changes. Impartiality is not the same as neutrality. Civil servants work for ministers in the government of the day. Impartiality means that, while working for current ministers, civil servants retain the confidence of the opposition parties to work for them if they come to power.

Public services from all over the world need to be always in coordination with citizens needs and requires. In order to do that, many governments from all over the world have changed things over time, have improved, have done better or worse, in other words have reformed. That was what UK has done during time, but the real public management reform started in the ’80 when the New Public Management has made it’s mark on the public sector.

The United Kingdom has adopted a reform programme devoted to the introduction of managerial techniques and economic incentives. When we read about adopting and implementing NPM, the UK is a good example, being one of a few countries to fully adopt most of the core elements and it is frequently referred to as the textbook case of new public management.

When we see the hall picture of UK public management reforms, we have to take into account at least three additional dimensions(Kai Wegrich,2009):

Time. NPM management as soon as it appeared, late ’80, early 90 was the reason and subject of UK public management reforms. Thought it was something new, during time it was establish by some critics that public management reforms were just reactions to earlier reforms and their effects.

Doctrines. It is said that some of NPM doctrines that driven to the design of management reforms are related to “managerial freedom”, “decentralization”, “performance accountability” , “increasing top-down control”(Aucoin 1990; Hood 1991; Pollitt and Bouckaert 2004)

Results. The results and the related aspect of assessing results are considerate the most difficult dimension for the assessment of any public management reforms.

According to Barzeley (2001) UK is considered one of the “bench-mark” cases from which other countries could learn a lot. The UK experience in public management reforms could help other countries to develop their own public management reform programmes, countries that are now developing in this matter like Romania. But what was the reason for UK to be considered exceptional in public management reform? The help came from the British government system itself. The relatively low constitutional and regulatory constrains in changes is one key to the success. The fact that there is no single written constitution, means that changes can be adopted just through simple legislation supported by the majority party in the House of Commons and without a guardian of the constitution. If there is no written constitution, means that there are a lot of written documents like acts of Parliament, principles of common law as well as major scholarly contributions and laws that relate to the working of the Parliament and its members that are regarded as being part of British constitution.(Bagehot, 2001). Along these written documents, part of the constitution are also informal conventions and ways of doing things. All of these characteristics of British government system helped the change to be more easier to be made than in other countries., where there is a written constitution.

In UK public management reforms needed far fewer constrains because of the voting system. This allows stable single-party majorities in Parliament and the parliamentary system secures the support of this majority for the party leader. The enormous British capacity for reform comes also from the absence of a second chamber of Parliament and a federal level of government with decision-making power matching those of fully fledged bi-cameral and devolved systems.

New Public Management made a change in UK , and the core elements can be seen in the reforms from mid ’80s to mid ‘90s.

The conservative government of UK under Thatcher started what we call public management reform. Since New Public Management was introduced, big changes occurred in public sector that were continued by the followers in british government. Some of these reforms were:

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Efficiency scrutinies 1979 (scrutinies to detect organizational slack as a baseline for simplification of administrative procedures and workforce reduce)

Financial Management Initiative 1982 ( setting of output measures for all departments, delegation of financial and personnel responsibility to line managers)

Privatization of state owned enterprises 1984

Next Steps 1988

Citizens Chart and Market testing in 1991 under John Major government (service delivery units develop performance indicators and report on performance, increase of transparency and access to information; departments monitor achievement/ departments compare the cost of in-house tasks with market price by external providers to facilitate contracting-out)

Private Finance Initiative 1994

Resources Accounting and Budgeting; Civil Service continuity and changing 1994 ( new standard in accounting and introduction of senior civil service)

The starting point of the sustainable reform is considered to be Financial Management Initiative, which was launched in Thatcher time 1982, in the White Paper “Efficiency and Effectiveness” . Thought this initiative, objectives and output measures were defined for all departments, including a strong element of performance measurement and management. The main objective of this FMI was: “to promote in each department and organisation a system in which managers at all levels have :

a clear view of the objectives and means to asses and wherever possible, measure outputs or performance in relation to those objectives;

well defined responsibility for making the best use of their resources, including a critical scrutiny of output and value for money;

the information, the training and the access to expert advice that they need to exercise their responsibilities effectively.

FMI is one important initiative because brought a significant change in the culture of the Civil Service. If the civil servants before had not been required to give consideration to issues like costs and benefits, now they were obliged to do so. After 2 years since the initiative began in every central Government department was a kind of budget system and financial management was already a fact of life, departments became better equipped to review their activities, set objectives and establish priorities.

From 1984 began one of the first major reform measures, The Privatization of state-owned enterprises and it lasted until 1994. According to Hood(1994) this reform transformed UK into a country of low proportion of public ownership in the economy. Big companies were privatised one by one: British Airways privatisation started a little bit earlier in 1981, then British Telecom in 1984, British Gas in 1986, British Airports Authority in 1987, Electricity 1987, Water 1989 and British Rail 1993. What was the immediate result of this reform? Almost 2 millions people remained without a job in the public sector.

Under Thatcher another 2 important reforms began: in 1987 Performance Related Pay that meant the introduction of performance related pay, in agreement with the unions and in 1988 one of the most important with the biggest impact on UK government The Next Step Programme. 100 Executive Agencies were established to deliver public services and to implement the policies. The reform was a result of the Ibbs report as a recommendation in search for a better value for money. The idea was that the Civil Service should have a small core of policy makers, with other officials being transferred to work under free-standing agency boards. “Next steps” brought major changes in the management of public administration and managerial culture of public service executive structures. As a result the departments and agencies looked pretty critical on government functions and apply them to their test “option before” (“Maybe a function to be abolished, privatized or contracted out? An agency is established only where these options are excluded ministers?) (HMSO, 1998a).

Next Steps Initiative recognizes the inter-relationship between policies and management, but tries to eliminate numerous routine administrative activities that have a daily impact on public policies in the political system. Ministers exercise strategic oversight unless there has been a failure of policy and exceptional circumstances (Massey, 1999). The main impact of these policies is that, mostly, the main executive functions of government are clearly exercited by units clearly designated within departments, called agencies.

The next big and controversial public management reform was under John Major represented by The Private Financial Initiative. This procurement method secured private funding for public institutions in return for part-privatisation. Under the most common form of PFI, the private sector designs, builts, finances and operates (DBFO) facilities based on ‘output’ specifications decided by public sector managers and their departments. Such projects need to achieve a genuine transfer of risk to the private sector contractor to secure value for money in the use of public resources before they will be agreed. The financial crises started in 2007 made this initiative even more controversial in terms of risk management and value for money.

Other important reforms in terms of public management where related to what means good public services and improvement of servants work. 1991, Citizen’s Charter that had the objective of increasing the transparency and access to information through performance indicators and reports on performance.

Between 1979 and 1997 the Margaret Thatcher and John Major conservative governments , have established a new approach to the public sector in Great Britain, which has became known as New Public Management(Pollitt, 1990).

The public management reforms continued with the labour government led by Tony Blair. The New Labour situation was clarified by the White Paper “Modernising Government”(Cabinet Office, 1999). During labour time, the government tried to develop the concept of “coordinated governance” and to put it into practice, meaning a greater coordination among the government departments, so that the impact on citizens will be more coherent, more intelligible and more accessible. In this sense the Blair government outlined the following aspects:

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coherence through “coordinated governance” as outlined in various documents, and particularly the White Paper Modernising government;

trying to reformulate the role and relationships of organisms outside departments (administrative bodies);

placing a greater emphasis on regions in state government through the establishment of Regional Development Agencies

The New government followed and continued the conservatories public management reform: if until 1999 Next Steps initiative was about creating executive agencies, after 1999 was about performance improvement:

Encourage ministers to be more involved in setting goals and achieving them by agencies over which exercise authority;

Much wider use of information technology and other modern management techniques by agencies to ensure best practices, as they are demonstrated in public and private sector organizations;

Ensure cooperation and coordination between bodies to enable integrated service provision, the so-called “coordinated governance”;

Maintaining the managerial delegation in the ministries, as well as ministerial accountability to parliament for the performance of agencies(Massey, 1999).

Also a priority for the Blair government was the revival of the Citizens Charter, first launched in 1991 by John Major, as a program for 10 years to increase the standard of public services and to make them respond more promptly user. Currently there are 40 main papers that cover all key public services, in which we can find standards of services that people can expect to receive with over 10,000 local papers covering local service providers such as Police forces and Fire Services (Massey, 1999). It may be noted however, that these public policy areas in which they acted, ministers continued the same general direction as their Conservative predecessors.

With the delegation of substantial powers to the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland, the government moved quickly to fulfill its election pledge, to set up new regional bodies in 1999, which were called the Regional Development Agencies. They had as main objectives the developing of regeneration programs more efficient and integrate and pushing forward the many regional priorities white papers.

In addition, it became clear from the beginning of 1999 the government began to

focus on more effective ways of developing and implementing public policy by improving

legislative process. For example, it introduced new procedural way for wider consultation

on all draft laws in Parliament.

We can see that the UK public management reform was achieved thourgh the development of the Conservative emphasis on focusing on result. Each of these initiatives focus on the final user by providing services to citizens in the most efficient and effective. Some examples will be:

The foundation of a Civil Service Management Committee that will use a more corporate approach in achieving inter-sectoral goals needed to bring about a cultural change in public position.

Use of a new Center for Management and Policy Studies to provide an integrated training to ministers and officials that will allow them to discuss the way in which public policies are and should be developed.

The attempting to upgrade the standard and assessment tools

The elimination of unnecessary regulations and the ensure that further regulations are limited to measures that are needed and proportioned.

The White Paper Modernising Government and ministerial speaking that followed were marked by attempts to use such national programs that the government has described as “focused on citizens, again putting emphasis on end-user of public services. In addition, the government also established some “programs focused on specific groups, such as dealing with the needs of particular groups. Examples include pilot programs like Effective governance for the elderly, New approach to youth unemployment, etc.. All these programs were designed to address particular issues or towns facing economic difficulties and shortcomings.

UK started public management reforms earlier than many other countries and its experience transformed this country in a good example from which other governments could learn a lot, being a handbook for using New Public Management in public administration reform.

Romania public management reform

From communism to democracy

Romania is situated in the south-east of Central Europe, a small country with great desire to succeed in order to be at the same stage as other developed European countries. Romania is a NATO member since 2004 and European Union Member since 1 January 2007.

Romania is a sovereign, independent, unitary and indivisible national state; the form of government is a Republic, according to the Constitution of Romania, adopted in 1991, modified in 2003. It is organized according to the principle of separation and balance of the legislative, executive and judicial powers. The legislative power is represented by the Parliament of Romania, with two chambers, comprising the Senate (137 members) and the Chamber of Deputies (314 members). 18 additional places in the Chamber of Deputies are reserved for the representatives of the national minorities. The executive power is represented by the Government, led by a Prime Minister, designated by the President of the state. According to the constitutional provisions and laws(law no 370/2004), the President of Romania, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate are elected by universal, equal, direct, secret and free suffrage. The mandate of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate is on a term of 4 years, and since 2004, the mandate of the President of Romania is on a term of office of five years. At the same time, in case of the local elections, the mandate is on a term of four years. The judicial power is represented by courts of law, Public Ministry, Superior Council of Magistracy( art no 3 Romania Constitution). The territory of Romania is organized administratively into communes, towns and counties. Some towns are declared municipalities, according to the provisions of the law. The Constitution specifies that Romania is a parliamentary republic and states the principle of the separation of powers among the three branches of the government. Romania has a multi-party system with numerous parties being actively involved in the political life. However only a few are represented in the Parliament (6 in the current legislature, plus the parliamentary group representing the national minorities). The constitution proclaims Romania a democracy and a market economy, in which human dignity, civic rights and freedoms, the unhindered development of human personality, justice, and political pluralism are supreme and guaranteed values.

The public administration in the territorial – administrative units shall be organized and shall function on the grounds of the principles of decentralization, local autonomy, deconcentration of public services, eligibility of the government authorities, legality and citizen consultation in solving local matters of particular interest.

Romania has faced between 1946 and 1989 one of the most authoritarian communist regimes in the Europe. While other countries begin to change their public system since late 1970’s, going to a managerial approach, Romania was keeping its rigidity and duress. All the power belonged only to one man, no one could talk, there was no freedom, people had no choice but the one that the dictator gave. All of these finished in 1989 when a massive revolution took place. So since 1990, Romania became a democratic country, trying to reform everything and to reach other developed countries in Europe, but the transition has been more sudden and drastic than in other countries that have experienced a gradual deterioration of the communist regime. The reform process for countries like Romania is very difficult, some things that are taken for granted like western countries, became difficult objectives to be reached by eastern countries. The difficulties come first of all from the environment of public administration which is not stimulating for change and reform, environment which is characterized by a precarious economic situation based upon uncertain property status, market mechanism, corruption, the lack of information|(especially form citizens), lack of political will for a real change and reform, too many personal interests.

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In all political speeches after 1989 it could be heard a very strong wish to conduct significant changes in public administration. A reform cannot be conceived separately from political environment and political decision making, because this can influence the direction, strength and implementation of the reform. The first change, considered most important at that time was institutional change at a institutional and policy level: changing the rules, structuring new institutions and modify old ones., changing legislation, infrastructures, increasing financial and technical resources.

Every government that came after communist regime had on its agenda the reforming of public administration, but in all we can find the same main objectives:

Deep restructuring of central and local public administration

Change the relations between the administration and citizen

Decentralization of public services and strengthening local administrative and financial autonomy

Gradual demilitarization of community services

Politicization of public administration structures and elimination of political clientele

Stopping the government bureaucracy

Consistency administrative act; improved management in administration

Application of rational policy development and modernization of the rural and urban areas.

Strengthening state authority and its responsabilities

After almost 21 years of democracy, it was expected that Romania will already have had a good public administration that can be compared to developed countries, a continuing and sustainable public management reform. But the reality is not what we wanted to be, administrative reform being far from acceptable. An effective and efficient administrative system without a real democratic development cannot be conceived. The challenges are still tough as in 1990 due to the fact Romanian administration has many thin parts especially concerning efficiency of work and managerial process.

Public management reform in Romania was pushed more from outside than inside. First on the list will be the European Union that plays a major role in modernization of the public administration and its pressure proved to be significant. Other players that influenced and pushed forward this reform were: World Bank, SIGMA-OECD, NATO, international consultants who were part of different programs implemented in Romania, universities( the last two state secretaries responsible for the reform of public administration are from academic community).

Romania and European Union

The years between 1990 and 1995 when Romania decided to apply for negation in order to accede the big European family, were very confusing in what administration reform meant. Things really get started in 2000 when Romania marked the official start of membership negotiations. At the Copenhagen Summit in December 2002, EU leaders set 2007 as the target date for Romania to join the Union. “The 2007 entry goal is a realistic scenario,” said former Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen in June 2004. “Romania is in a decisive phase – it may be hard but it’s possible.” In June 2004, the EU decided to set a new “safeguard clause” for Romania (and Bulgaria), which can delay accession by one year if the countries fail to meet their targets. Such delay would require a unanimous decision by the Council. Meanwhile, in May 2004, Romania became a full member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). 

On 17 December 2004, the Brussels Council took note of Romania’s progress in its accession preparations and considered that the country “will be able to assume all the obligations of membership at the envisaged time of its accession”, ie January 2007. On 22 February 2005, the Commission passed a positive judgement on the scheduled April 2005 signing of Romania’s Accession Treaty.  In April 2005, the European Parliament gave its overwhelming support to Romania’s EU bid. The vote was 497-93, with 71 abstentions. The second such report was issued on 16 May 2006. On 25 April 2005 Romania signed its EU Accession Treaty, and on 25 October 2005 the Commission published its monitoring report on the country’s level of preparedness. In its final monitoring report on 26 September 2006, the Commission gave its green light for Romanian accession in 2007, but insisted on further reforms. If the requirements are not met, the Commission can invoke safeguard measures, which could lead to the suspension of funds.

In 2001 Romanian government decided to accelerate the reform of public administration, a strategy that was designed to offer a strategic vision of the reform and to shift the focus away from the legal approach. The desire to reform was so big, that after three years after its adoption, the government found out that is has been highly ineffective because it was too ambitious. But during this time, important changes took place: creation of new institutions(National Institute of Administration, Central Unit for Administration Reform, Public Policies Unit, Superior Council for Public Administration Reform, Public Policy Coordination and Structural Adjustment all by the Government Decision 951/2001) , the decentralization of public services(law 215/2005 modified and republished), the reform of public finances(law 500/2002 regarding public finances), reform of civil service(law 188/1999 The status of civil service).

To simplify and streamline the decision process, in early 2001 took place a government restructuring. This followed: efficiency of governance, reorienting activities to reduce the number of ministries and government agencies, government agencies in the passage of subordination or coordination of ministries, establishment of new ministries to meet the priorities of reform, establishment of offices in the structure of ministries, headed by secretaries of state for: the relationship with parliament, trade unions and employers; European integration and foreign relations, foreign and domestic investors.

In June 2003 took place a new reorganization of the Central Public Administration Authorities. The number of ministers was reduced to fifteen , under the European average, with eight old that kept their status and foundation of seven new ones. It was a big change but the results weren’t those expected by the citizens and civil servants. It was change of government rather than the result of a strategic reform program. Some posts have disappeared while others have changed responsibilities. This led to many civil servants be removed by resignation or by dismissal. This seriously undermined the stability of public functions at all levels of public administration. Number of state secretaries (political appointed) was significantly increased. Many of them took over the responsibilities held by CEOs (career civil servants). Reorganization of ministries has been accompanied by announcing a reduction of 30% of the civil service (as in September 2001, that body size was reduced by 22%). This measure reduced the already low levels of administrative capacity and left many important ministries with insufficient staff. There is evidence of a systematic sizing staff in central administration and operation of each ministry discounts missed opportunity to reallocate surplus human resources to where they needed additional staff.

European Union was and still is a major player in this process of modernisation and reform of Romanian public administration. Before Romania became a member of the “big European family” received European funding in order to accelerate the reform process and to meet European standards, recommended or required. This funding helped the country a lot in introducing and implementing management tools in public sector, as other countries did many years ahead.

Central Unit for Public Administration Reform in order to support the reform process, developed a series of typical modern management tools.

Common Assessment Framework, a real evaluation systems for the institutions/organizations within the public sector. The Common Assessment Framework (CAF) provides a comprehensive picture of the activities carried out by the self-evaluated institution in relation to its mission and with the achieved results. What was achieved so far? 280 civil servants gained the insight knowledge and the ability to use the self assessment tool and they are expected to become the main actors in the future implementing phase both for their institution and for the de-concentrated and decentralized bodies; 29 institutions implement CAF until the end of the year 2006; improvement action plans elaborated by all 29 public institutions.

Multi-annual Modernization Program(MMP) The aim of this instrument is the proper prioritization of the reform initiatives at the level of the implementing institutions. The main advantage

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