The primary concern of a democratically elected government is to deliver on the election promises made to the electorate during the campaigns.
This is important because the implementation of promises is a determinant factor for winning next elections. This universal truth is not peculiar to Tanzania. It is a global/transnational issue.
In order to ensure that government policies and projects are implemented, it has now become a practice of top political leadership in various nations to establish delivery units to work hand in hand with government departments, frontline agencies and independent contractors.
Formation of delivery units is the latest innovation in the government set up.
It originated in Britain during the second tenure of Tony Blair as a Prime Minister under the Labour Party.
It happened that delivery of policy commitments during his first tenure was unsatisfactory due to poor linkage of implementation between the Prime Minister’s office and line ministries, frontline agencies and independent contractors responsible for ground implementation of government policies and projects. That was in 2001.
The practice has spread in various countries across continents. According to Professor Jen Gold (Gold:2017) more than 25 countries have adopted the model by establishing national or regional delivery units within respective countries.
The position might have changed now. Some of the countries that have adopted the practice of establishing delivery units in Africa include Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Uganda and some states in South Africa.
In Tanzania, a Presidential Delivery Unit was established in 2011. It ceased to operate in 2017. It borrowed heavily from Malaysian model and under technical assistance from the same country. Indeed, the idea came about after the then President, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete visited Malaysia. As to its efficacy or performance during its existence, there is a need for more empirical research.
However, from the little available literature on its performance during its existence, it seems that it started to operate on a wrong footing.
First, its design and model did not take into account the country administrative set up and size.
Secondly, its management set up was congested as if it was a huge commercial company or business entity. It had a Chief Executive Officer, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Director of Corporate Services, Director of Agricultural Marketing Systems, Director of Resource Mobilization, Director for Planning and others.
An effective delivery Unit needs to have lean management, led by a tested CEO who has track records of overseeing and implementing huge and important projects, be they private or public, with impetus to make things done.
Middle level staff are the most important because it is they who execute the PDU mission on the ground.
Secondly, it was given very wide mandate compared to available resources, in terms of staff, finances and other material resources. An effective delivery unit must be given specified/few terms of reference that it can effectively handle.
The British Prime Minister’s delivery unit was for instance given 17 objectives only. As to the Tanzanian situation, the PDU should focus on the priorities of the current government that include construction/implementation of infrastructure projects like roads, water delivery networks, electrification projects, health and education infrastructure, agricultural production and marketing, social service delivery (with particular emphasis on education and health) and industrialization.
No regime or administration can do everything during its tenure. It must identify in clearest terms its priorities for delivery.
Thirdly, it had problems in its recruitment policy. It sought to staff entirely new people who had no government experience.
An ideal delivery unit should be constituted of those having experience and knowledge in government systems and operations, those from private sectors and critical thinkers with experience in consulting and researching in professions relevant to the functions of a delivery unit.
This mingling of professionals is important because it will produce a brand of experiences to monitor policies and project implementation and solve bottlenecks facing the implementation of various government projects/policies.
To get this caliber of people can not cause any difficulty because the government has good stock of experts in regional secretariats and local government authorities that can be seconded to the PDU to collaborate with others from recommended groups.
Fourthly, it appears that the unit lost political sponsorship, nexus and engagement with the leadership in terms of location, briefings, debriefings, performance meeting and external reviews.
Delivery units are there to assist the Head of Government and the sitting Government as an entity (and the ruling political party) to achieve their election agenda.
It is crucial to keep constant interaction with the Head of the Government, to get him fully briefed of what is happening on the ground, including the identified bottlenecks and solution thereto so that he can make necessary timely and correct interventions directly or through a responsible Minister or head of a government agency responsible, which include local authorities.
This is without prejudice to a need for delivery unit to constantly interacting with ministries and other frontline agencies in order to create a good rapport with them. For instance it is documented that Tony Blaire was meeting his PMDU once per month for half a day for briefing purposes.
Justification of new delivery unity
Of recent, we have witnessed (from media reports) considerable dissatisfaction by the top leadership in the government on the implantation of various government policies and projects.
Obviously, the Presidency and allied or related offices depend on political and other senior civil service appointees to ensure that government policies and projects are implemented within given time frame and expected quality (value for money spent).
The concerns of our leaders have been slow execution of projects, inaction of the appointees,’ misuse of public /tax payers’ money poor supervision of policy implementation particularly in crop marketing and industrialization and other malpractices.
The fact that our top leaders have shown dissatisfaction on delivery of government projects and policies is a clear indication that there is a missing link in the whole process of policy/projects implementation.
It is here when the Presidential delivery unit comes in. It will serve the followings purpose;
i. Oversee and monitor the implementation of selected government policies/projects
ii. Identify the bottlenecks impeding the implementation of projects, get solutions to the same and propose required intervention by the top political leaders that should be done in collaboration with frontline agencies and line ministries.
iii. Briefing the top political leadership from time to time, with data and evidence, within an agreed timeframe, on the actual happenings on the ground.
The head of the state will get independent and unbiased briefing of situation on the ground rather than depending on the information received from traditional/statutory organs of the state. iv.
Create good rapport with the government ministries and local government authorities as a dependable support unit to them to ensure proper implementation of government policies and projects.
Given the size of the country it is impossible for top government leaders to go everywhere in the country to inspect projects and give on the sport guidance and orders.
This unit will fill the gap and assist the top leadership to a great deal in fulfilling government missions.
It is noted further that the same problems are recurring from time to time despite the fact that most of the Ministers and Regional Commissioners have been crisscrossing the country in the name of supervising their ministerial portfolios and regions.
The fact that there was a unit that closed shop perhaps due to the failure to properly perform its duty is, in itself, not a proof that the delivery units are wastage of time, resources and useless.
What is required is to review, thoroughly, the reasons that led to the first PDU to fail and rectify mistakes by designing the unit which is bound to deliver its mandate by taking into account the following:
The delivery unit should be placed under and in the centre or hub of government activities such as within the Presidency or the Prime Minister office; Its mandate of action should be precise and focused on priorities to be identified by the political leadership;
Clear recruitment policy should be put in place. The team should be able to provide good and quality solution to complex problems on policy/project implantation. Surely, delivery units are not for air condition loving executives.
It is for decisive, pragmatic and result oriented staff and executives who are able to venture to the field come rain come sun.
The organization structure of the Unit should be well defined to accommodate timely action and decision making, without bureaucratic tendencies or delays;
Delivery units work for political leadership to help them achieve their election promises. Therefore political leadership should support the unit and the unit should make sure that it retains political patronage and sponsorship by delivering on its mandate and keeping the spirit of working symbiotically live.
Loss of political sponsorship by the delivery unit is always detrimental and my lead to its demise;
To avoid pitfalls in activities of the unit there should be in place external annual review of the Delivery Unit activities so as to rectify any identifiable anomalies;
There should be a clear framework for briefing and report giving to the political authorities and clear guidelines to guide the interaction between the Delivery Unit and line ministry and other frontline implementation agency to avoid unnecessary confrontations within the government that may affect deliveries.
I believe that if these conditions are adhered to in designing, establishing, staffing and running the unit, it will surely deliver.
Gabriel Simon Mnyele is a former lecturer at the Institute of Finance Management, Open University of Tanzania and the Law School of Tanzania. He is also a former District Commissioner for Uyui District, Tabora Region. He is currently a practicing Advocate and legal Consultant based in Dar es Salaam.