87.5 F
Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, August 18, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesPERFORMANCE MATTERS MOST, NOT SIZE

PERFORMANCE MATTERS MOST, NOT SIZE

The size of our government was among the hot topics of discussion at the recent Economic Summit conference.
"Our government is too big and out of control. It's top heavy and costly," said some of the speakers. Conferees even heard the highest elected official suggest that there will be a workforce reduction to curb spending and control this "living above the means government." He promised to right size government and to impose a real hiring freeze.
But, is our government really too big? Or, is it outdated, poorly structured and mismanaged? What is our territorial government being compared to? What is a credible yardstick to measure and compare the size of government? Is it simply measured by the bottom-line of the budget?
The downsizing solution to our economic woes seems to fly straight in the face of reality. To a great extent, we already have a bare bones operation. We have seen most agencies eloquently and passionately argue with facts and figures before the Legislature each year that they are woefully understaffed and ill prepared to carry out their statutorily mandated responsibilities.
Take, for instance, the school system. There is a shortage of teachers and counselors in our schools. At the hospitals, there is a shortage of doctors, nurses and technicians. In the Police Department, there are hardly enough police officers to patrol our streets. There is a shortage of computer technicians throughout the territory. In Planning and Natural Resources, there is a shortage of qualified staff to review and approve permits rapidly. Libraries are understaffed. There is a shortage of employees in just about every essential department or service.
The argument for reducing the number of government workers falls apart even more when we examine the structure of our territorial government, which is a very unique entity under the American flag.
For many official purposes, the territory is considered a state and our state governor is a member of the National Governors Association. At the same time, because of our unique political situation, our governor is more like a town or city mayor or a county executive.
In many respects, our hybrid territorial government is more like a small city or county government. The school system, that in other places usually has a separate governance structure, falls directly under the control of the governor. The governor in turn is often called upon to act on matters that normally should be performed or resolved by a fully autonomous commissioner of education or superintendent of schools.
So, if we are a state government, a city government, a county government and a school system all wrapped up into one entity called a territorial government, are we really that big a government? Is it really an issue of size or is it something else that we are not quite clear about?
Perhaps, it's productivity and quality of performance that we should be concerned about. Rather than the simplistic bickering and knee-jerk reaction about the size of government, the well-intentioned critics ought to spend some time looking at other more important factors such as the restructuring of government and the critical issues of modernization and productivity.
More needs to be said and done, for instance, about the quality of performance and competence of government employees. How can we get entrenched government workers to perform their work efficiently and competently? How can we transform the V.I. government into a business-minded, customer-focused and more fluid operation? How can our administrators and managers learn to manage and coach employees to get things done? How can we lessen the intrusion of partisan politics in day to day operations?
It would be safe to wager that the majority of Virgin Islanders do not give a hoot about the mere size of government. What they really want is a government that produces quality results cost-effectively–a government that gets things done rapidly.
They want a professional government that understands business and can be an essential partner in economic development. They want a smart government that reduces cost by using technology and constantly trains employees to reach higher levels of productivity. They want a responsive government with less holidays and less time and attendance abuses. They want an integrated government with less fragmentation and less vexing run-around for its citizens and customers.
They want a wiser Legislature that focuses on smart policy development. They want a visionary head of government who strategically leads and inspires and does not engage in the micro-management and minutiae of agencies. They want an accountable and self-supporting government that stays on budget and finds creative ways to generate revenue, attain new federal funding and leverages its limited funds.
Let's not blindly succumb to mindless workforce cutting. We must purposefully and intelligently re-engineer and transform our government to prepare for the challenges of the 21st century and to forge economic progress. To reduce the number of public employees without a sensible strategic plan of government improvement and innovation would only result in a worse disaster that could severely imperil and set back our dreams of economic recovery.
In the end, we must have a world-class, high-performance government to safeguard our future.
Editor's note: Carmelo Rivera is an organization development and human resources consultant with more than 20 years of experience in government operations. Until recently, he was V.I. commissioner of Labor. He can be reached at (340) 692-2123.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.

FROM FACEBOOK

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more
The size of our government was among the hot topics of discussion at the recent Economic Summit conference.
"Our government is too big and out of control. It's top heavy and costly," said some of the speakers. Conferees even heard the highest elected official suggest that there will be a workforce reduction to curb spending and control this "living above the means government." He promised to right size government and to impose a real hiring freeze.
But, is our government really too big? Or, is it outdated, poorly structured and mismanaged? What is our territorial government being compared to? What is a credible yardstick to measure and compare the size of government? Is it simply measured by the bottom-line of the budget?
The downsizing solution to our economic woes seems to fly straight in the face of reality. To a great extent, we already have a bare bones operation. We have seen most agencies eloquently and passionately argue with facts and figures before the Legislature each year that they are woefully understaffed and ill prepared to carry out their statutorily mandated responsibilities.
Take, for instance, the school system. There is a shortage of teachers and counselors in our schools. At the hospitals, there is a shortage of doctors, nurses and technicians. In the Police Department, there are hardly enough police officers to patrol our streets. There is a shortage of computer technicians throughout the territory. In Planning and Natural Resources, there is a shortage of qualified staff to review and approve permits rapidly. Libraries are understaffed. There is a shortage of employees in just about every essential department or service.
The argument for reducing the number of government workers falls apart even more when we examine the structure of our territorial government, which is a very unique entity under the American flag.
For many official purposes, the territory is considered a state and our state governor is a member of the National Governors Association. At the same time, because of our unique political situation, our governor is more like a town or city mayor or a county executive.
In many respects, our hybrid territorial government is more like a small city or county government. The school system, that in other places usually has a separate governance structure, falls directly under the control of the governor. The governor in turn is often called upon to act on matters that normally should be performed or resolved by a fully autonomous commissioner of education or superintendent of schools.
So, if we are a state government, a city government, a county government and a school system all wrapped up into one entity called a territorial government, are we really that big a government? Is it really an issue of size or is it something else that we are not quite clear about?
Perhaps, it's productivity and quality of performance that we should be concerned about. Rather than the simplistic bickering and knee-jerk reaction about the size of government, the well-intentioned critics ought to spend some time looking at other more important factors such as the restructuring of government and the critical issues of modernization and productivity.
More needs to be said and done, for instance, about the quality of performance and competence of government employees. How can we get entrenched government workers to perform their work efficiently and competently? How can we transform the V.I. government into a business-minded, customer-focused and more fluid operation? How can our administrators and managers learn to manage and coach employees to get things done? How can we lessen the intrusion of partisan politics in day to day operations?
It would be safe to wager that the majority of Virgin Islanders do not give a hoot about the mere size of government. What they really want is a government that produces quality results cost-effectively--a government that gets things done rapidly.
They want a professional government that understands business and can be an essential partner in economic development. They want a smart government that reduces cost by using technology and constantly trains employees to reach higher levels of productivity. They want a responsive government with less holidays and less time and attendance abuses. They want an integrated government with less fragmentation and less vexing run-around for its citizens and customers.
They want a wiser Legislature that focuses on smart policy development. They want a visionary head of government who strategically leads and inspires and does not engage in the micro-management and minutiae of agencies. They want an accountable and self-supporting government that stays on budget and finds creative ways to generate revenue, attain new federal funding and leverages its limited funds.
Let's not blindly succumb to mindless workforce cutting. We must purposefully and intelligently re-engineer and transform our government to prepare for the challenges of the 21st century and to forge economic progress. To reduce the number of public employees without a sensible strategic plan of government improvement and innovation would only result in a worse disaster that could severely imperil and set back our dreams of economic recovery.
In the end, we must have a world-class, high-performance government to safeguard our future.
Editor's note: Carmelo Rivera is an organization development and human resources consultant with more than 20 years of experience in government operations. Until recently, he was V.I. commissioner of Labor. He can be reached at (340) 692-2123.