The Government of the Cook Islands is presently engaged in a process of public sector reform, essential for boosting economic management to maintain growth. The public service as a proportion of the labour workforce has grown from 30% in 1996 to 31% in 2011 , and it has been noted that the budget has tripled since the reforms with no corresponding improvement in the quality of service delivery. The assessment of the public service was endorsed by the current government when it assumed office in November 2010, signalling high-level commitment to further reforms. While earlier reforms were driven by a financial crisis, the current reforms focus on strengthening leadership; stronger performance based on clear output requirements; greater efficiency; empowerment of the outer islands; and public–private partnerships.
The new Public Service Act 2009 provides the legislative Framework for further progress in reforming and modernising the public sectors. Concurrently, the Government of the Cook Islands has since 2011 been conducting a functional review of the public service with the support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The ADB report released in 2012 recommended establishing clarity in ministry structures to deliver its mandated core and non-core functions, including improvements to national planning, budgeting processes and performance management systems. While a number of projects have been implemented since the review, very little has been implemented in terms of improving HRM and performance management systems to address performance across the public sector. A Capability Analysis assessment of the Cook Islands Public Sector in 2012 confirmed there were many capability gaps across the public sector which needed to be addressed using a team of specialists to provide multi-faceted training programmes across the public sector.
The Office of the Public Service Commissioner (OPSC) is mandated under Section 6 of the Public Service Act 2009 to appoint heads of departments, develop and promote personnel policies and standards, including performance management systems for heads of departments and the Public Service; to provide advice on the training and career development of staff in the Public Service; and to determine salary ranges for positions in the Public Service in accordance with the remuneration system approved by the Cabinet.
OPSC have been tasked with designing a “one for all” performance management system for all government agencies. The development of this comprehensive and robust HRM framework complements a broader public sector reform programme of improving public administration through legislative reforms and by establishing and institutionalising HRM strategies and policies to support public sector managers lead and manage a highly competent and engaged workforce. The output performance of 13 Public Service Departments at 30 June 2013 identified the following issues;
Given the capacity constraints within the OPSC, addressing these issues requires a broad range of public sector reforms which includes systemic reforms and human resource management strategies to enhance the performance of heads of departments and public servants and improve public sector productivity.
The purpose of the project is to embed improved Performance Management practices within the Government of the Cook Islands, facilitated by the OPSC.
The project is ultimately expected to contribute to the improved performance of the Public Service in the Cook Islands characterised by the effective translation of Government mandates, strategies and plans into outputs delivering effective services and development outcomes resulting in high public confidence and satisfaction in the public service and Government.
The immediate beneficiaries will include staff of the OPSC, Heads of Ministries, and Senior Management staff across government departments who will directly receive training/mentoring on the newly developed performance management framework. Ultimately, the project will enhance capacity to implement robust Performance Management across the Public Sector in accordance with the strategic priorities laid down in the National Sustainable Development Plan. Finally, the citizens of the Cook Islands will benefit from improved performance in Public Services and greater value for public finances.