OPINION: Cutting the Bureaucratic Echelon System (EKO PRASOJO)
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in his inauguration speech at the People's
Consultative Assembly (MPR) on Oct. 20 said that he would streamline the structures of echelon 3 (administrator position), echelon 4 (supervisory position) and echelon 5 (executive position) in the bureaucracy.
The streamlining aims to create a leaner bureaucracy in order to support a better investment climate and provide a better service to the community. President Jokowi also promised to cut various regulations through an omnibus law.
How to understand and implement the President's vision?
Hierarchical and bureaucratic
The idea of cutting echelons 3, 4, and 5 in the bureaucracy was actually included in the 2012 Bureaucracy Reform acceleration program. This idea was implemented at the Development Finance Comptroller (BPKP) at that time by removing 145 units from the structure and replacing them with functional auditor positions. The basic problem of the Indonesian bureaucracy relates to the very hierarchical structure that causes the process of decision making and government administration to be very slow. This also causes difficulty in boosting Indonesia's competitiveness. Indonesia's competitiveness dropped from 45th place in 2018 to 50th place in 2019.
Without a culture of competency in the civil service, this hierarchical bureaucratic structure causes delays in various decisions and actions of government administration.
The very hierarchical structure of Indonesia's bureaucracy is a result of the structural orientation that is still dominant in government management. This is a characteristic of the Weberian model that developed in Western Europe and was brought by the Dutch colonial government at that time. The purpose of this hierarchical bureaucracy is to ensure that various government policies comply with the principle of compliance and each level of bureaucracy works in layers to check and provide a review for the superiors.
Without a culture of competency in the civil service, this hierarchical bureaucratic structure causes delays in various decisions and actions of government administration. As an illustration, if there is a government problem and a plan that must be resolved, the minister/head of the institution will disseminate a letter to echelon 1 officials (structural position), then continue to echelon 2 (functional position), continue to echelon 3, continue to echelon 4, and in some ministries or institutions continue until echelon 5.
Finally, those who conduct a study/analysis of a government problem are at the staff (implementing) level. In stages, the final results of the staff analysis will be submitted to the minister/head of the institution through the hierarchical process.
President Jokowi's idea of removing echelons 3, 4, and 5 is related to several things. First is building bureaucratic professionalism. So far, the orientation of Indonesian bureaucratic officials is still toward a structural position. Why is this so? Because every structural position is given full authority to manage the budget, carry out programs and activities and deploy the human resources and various office facilities that are provided. This structural orientation eliminates officials' ability to innovate and produce because ultimately government problems and plans will be explored hierarchically by the staff. Often high-level government decisions are reviewed by the staff at the executive level and without going through a full discussion with superiors.
Second is creating governance accountability. In practice, the hierarchical bureaucratic structure, besides causing delays in decision making, also raises the potential for abuse of authority. The more a hierarchical structure is layered, the higher the potential for abuse of power will be. With Indonesia's bureaucratic culture, which is still corrupt, every official who has tiered government administrative authority has the potential to use and abuse his authority. The idea of cutting back the bureaucratic echelon system aims to strengthen the responsibility of every official for the decisions and administrative actions he makes, as well as cutting the potential chain of abuse to create public accountability.
The characteristics of a dynamic bureaucracy include flexibility, good capability, rapid adaptation to change and a superior culture. Flexibility is reflected by simple business processes, lean organizational structure and being performance-based.
Third is creating efficiency and effectiveness of the bureaucracy. As it is widely known that fat bureaucratic structures require greater budget nutrition. Streamlining the bureaucratic echelons will reduce various budgets that are not needed for office facilities, development programs and activities that are not relevant to the needs of the nation and the state, incompetent human resources, and various potentials for deviant behavior by officials that result in abuse of authority and cause state losses. Streamlining the bureaucracy is an effort to create efficiency, while strengthening the effectiveness of the government.
Building a dynamic bureaucracy
To strengthen global competitiveness, Indonesia must have a dynamic bureaucracy, not a hierarchical bureaucracy. The characteristics of a dynamic bureaucracy include flexibility, good capability, rapid adaptation to change and a superior culture. Flexibility is reflected by simple business processes, lean organizational structure and being performance-based. Indonesia's bureaucracy must change from main duty-based functions to performance-based (results and impacts, or performance-based organizational structures). Each organizational unit and every government agency must be able to demonstrate its role and contribution directly in achieving the target of government performance indicators. Otherwise, government units or organizations can be abolished.
Capable bureaucracy must have the ability to think ahead in the long term, always make various innovations and changes, and compare the progress achieved by other countries or the private sector. With the current condition of bureaucracy being very hierarchical and rule-based, it is difficult for civil servants to innovate. Besides being bound by various existing structures, the civil servants must also implement a variety of very rigid regulations.
The government's plan to cut various laws and regulations and replace them with an omnibus law is in line with the desire to create an innovative bureaucracy. In a decentralized country, the omnibus law must be followed by a comprehensive review of various provincial and regency/city regional regulations. This review must be carried out quickly by involving various stakeholders such as universities in the regions. If not, the omnibus law will not be effective because most of the licensing processes are under the authority of the regional governments.
A dynamic bureaucracy must also have a superior culture, such as anticorruption, meritocracy and performance-oriented. Bureaucratic culture changes in Indonesian history have never been done in a structured and long-term manner. Although five years ago President Jokowi launched the Mental Revolution, the results are yet to be seen. This, according to the writer, will be a big obstacle in changing the structure of Indonesia's bureaucracy. There is no other choice, President Jokowi must put change in bureaucratic culture as a development priority in the next five years and implement it seriously.
Streamlining the bureaucracy is not enough only to increase global competitiveness. The government must strengthen the quality of public policies. The problem of Indonesia's bureaucracy is the inability to make data, information and knowledge-based policies, and apply them in the long term. Let alone disruptive changes, the civil servants who are needed are those who are able to prepare good public policies.
Streamlining bureaucratic echelons, therefore, is not a single agenda because it must be followed by various other changes. If the President's order regarding the streamlining of the bureaucracy is to be carried out, there are several stages that must be taken. First, with guidance from the Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Ministry, each ministry or agency must identify and propose echelon 3, 4, and 5 positions that can be cut. Position criteria should be prioritized for positions that are close to functional positions.
This change is certainly not easy, but if we don't do it today, surely by tomorrow it will never be finished.
Second, prepare and strengthen functional positions with clear career patterns, adequate incentives and motivate the civil servants, and build pride in working in functional positions. Third, do a national mapping of the needs of functional positions so that the civil servants not only work in their old environment, but can be distributed to various ministries, institutions and also local governments. Thus, the echelon-streamlining program will also reduce the silo mentality and sectoral ego.
Fourth, prepare change management, including an early retirement scheme for the civil servants who no longer have the competence and wish to choose a second career in the private sector. This change is certainly not easy, but if we don't do it today, surely by tomorrow it will never be finished.
Eko Prasojo, Professor and Dean of the Administration Science School of the University of Indonesia
Kompas, 26 Oktober 2019
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Telkomsel network.