Spotlighting UN Public Service Award winner

Spotlighting UN Public Service Awards winner

Every year the UN honours winners of the UN Public Service Awards, highlighting excellence in public service delivery. In 2011, the Ministry of Public Administration of Mexico won first place for the Latin America and Caribbean region in two categories. DESA’s Division for Public Administration and Development Management, which administers the programme, interviewed Vice Minister Uriel Marquez Carrazco to discuss the winning initiatives.

The Ministry of Public Administration of Mexico won the first place in Category 1, “Preventing and Combating Corruption in the Public Service” for the initiative “The Guillotine of Administrative Regulations,” an innovative regulatory reform, and in Category 3, “Fostering Participation in Policy-Making Decisions through Innovative Mechanisms,” for the initiative “The Most Useless Bureaucratic Procedure Contest,” a programme to involve citizens in the identification of useless regulations, government transactions and red tape.

Vice Minister Marquez Carrazco travelled to the Awards Ceremony and Forum, which was held in Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania, this past June. This interview will be the first in a series of interviews with winners of the Awards to highlight their winning cases and the impact of the UN Public Service Awards (UNSPA) programme at the national, regional and international levels.

How did you first hear about the UNPSA programme?

“Through the Internet, someone read about the programme and suggested that we apply to share our initiatives with others in the world.”

The winning cases were extraordinary in the number of regulations cut and procedures simplified, what can you tell us was the source or driving force behind them? What do you feel is unique about the programme?

“The objective of the regulatory reform is not only to cut redundant regulations, but actually to make it easier for the private sector to do business. The initiative was initiated in 2008, and it was incredibly important to implement this during the financial crisis, since too many regulations resulted in a high cost for administration and business operations. The President gave an order to simplify regulations to increase economic activity. As a result of this initiative we advanced 35 places in the World Bank index of doing business and many new jobs were created. Therefore, the ultimate goal of these initiatives is to improve internal government efficiency, but most importantly to have a greater impact on economic performance and social well-being.”

What difference does it make for the ordinary citizen that regulations have been simplified?

“With a decrease in the amount of administrative operations and amount spent, 60 million pesos saved from the reduction of expenses could be directed to yearly social transfers, as well as infrastructure and high-impact projects. Every three months, the administration deals with 40 million transactions. We had a 4 per cent increase in citizens’ satisfaction. According to Transparency International in Mexico, the measure of corruption in public administration has decreased by 30 per cent thanks to these initiatives. We conducted 29,000 interviews with citizens to check the quality of services, and the level of corruption reported was only 2 per cent, as well as very low levels of discrimination were reported. An example of just one improvement is the case of a child who is about 9 years old and has a critical health problem. In the past, due to cumbersome bureaucratic procedures, this child had to wait many days before he could get his medication, but thanks to the new system, which has been made available online, he can get his medication immediately and on a regular basis.”

Did your institution become more prone to innovation and did your institution promote other innovations?

“Public administration is leading the improvement of performance and it is responsible for 239 agencies in Mexico so it is a huge task. By winning this Award, we have been able to demonstrate to other government institutions that what we are doing at the federal level is very valuable because it has been recognized and is seen as a best practice by the UN. It has helped us to move from a bureaucratic culture to one that focuses on results. We are now able to teach other agencies that we must be innovative and that we can change for the better. Before the local agencies would not pay much attention to us, but after winning the Award, they respect us for our achievement and are willing to undertake innovative projects that improve the quality of life for our citizens. In fact, as a result of winning the Awards, there are 30 projects from Mexico that will be submitted for the 2012 UNPSA. Now when we convene meetings with the agencies, we write on the invitation: “Regulatory reform in Mexico, best practice as recognized by the United Nations Awards.” This gives us a lot of credibility.”

Did it enhance the morale of civil servants and thus encourage a positive environment for change?

“Yes, of course. Everything is about developing a people-minded organizational culture and about changing people’s mindsets. We can now ask civil servants to work hard because we have shown that our work has had a very high impact on the society and economy. We are now moving towards integrating 155 procedures to open a business and have a one-stop-shop for that. Another initiative is the integration of scholarships in one portal. One million scholarships will be hosted in one website so that each student can register their preference, age and we will also avoid giving to the same person two scholarships.”

Has the United Nations Public Service Awards significantly contributed to increasing attention by outside partners and institutions to your innovation? Has your innovation been replicated in other parts of your country or abroad? Are you sharing your experience with others?  If yes, where and when?

“Yes, at the beginning of the programme we did not get much attention at the local level, but the Award has helped us be even more effective locally. We have held 9 seminars with different states where we have invited municipal employees to learn about how to improve procedures and services to the citizens. The State of Puebla and the State of Sonora have now adapted our initiative. We have supported them in this process. We are also sharing our achievements with other countries, including: the Dominican Republic, where 120 officials attended an event at which we presented what we did; two major events in Mexico City where we invited all countries from Latin America; a meeting with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) where we presented our initiatives, which will be included in the Observatory on Innovations that they are setting up; and at a meeting of the Center for Administrative Development in Latin America (CLAD). We will also be going in 2012 to Colombia, El Salvador and Costa Rica to share our experience.”

How did you feel when you found out your institution won? What crossed your mind?

“It was very emotional. I was head of unit with only 36 employees and we had a very hard task to improve the performance of 239 agencies. We had to work a lot for weeks and weeks, staying at work late at night to implement these initiatives and to fight a bureaucratic culture and encourage others to take risks. We were fortunate because we had support from the President and the Minister of Public Administration. Getting recognition was really very important because it did not only give a clear message on the significance of the initiatives, but also validated our hard work and acknowledged our efforts. After winning, our work has been much easier and now we have gained trust and we are sought after for help because people have respect for us.”

What was the best part, or two best things, you experienced going to the forum itself in Tanzania and receiving the Award? What did you learn?

“Societies face similar problems around the world, and it was inspiring to listen to other government officials from other countries, to learn from them, and to have the opportunity to share with others the energy and desire to constantly do better for the benefit of our citizens. It was indeed a great honour to be there.”

What is the future looking like for the programme?

“It is part of a strategic programme for improving government performance. The next steps are to implement different projects; more one-stop shop windows or portals for critical economic and social development services, the integration of inter-agency processes, particularly in health, social and economic development, and the use of e-government tools in areas such as infrastructure and disaster response initiatives. Our emphasis is that a problem must be solved by more than one agency, it’s an inter-agency process, and we need to encourage openness and cooperation.”

How has the award changed the lives of people there — and also your life, we learned that you have been promoted to the position of Vice-Minister?

“Prior to winning the Award I was Head of Unit of Policies for the Improvement of Public Management at the Ministry of Public Administration. So, I was very pleased when, upon my return from Tanzania, I was designated as Vice-Minister. Because I strongly believe in developing human resources at all levels, I proposed, after I was appointed Vice-Minister, that a number of my team members be promoted to higher levels. One of the staff in my team was appointed Vice-Minister of the State of Puebla to help replicate the initiative. Moreover, the Minister now takes into account our opinion on the achievements of civil servants working in the various agencies. In sum, we believe that this UN Public Service Awards programme is extremely important because it goes beyond the academic discourse and focuses squarely on how to solve the problems our societies are facing. Therefore, the Awards programme is instrumental for finding and sharing compelling solutions to common problems.”

The Ministry of Public Administration devised an innovative regulatory reform to reduce, standardize and simplify existing rules across the Federal Government with a view to improving public governance, curbing corruption, reducing administrative costs and increasing social transfers to vulnerable groups, as well as improving private sector competitiveness and promoting economic growth. As a result of this initiative, the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) has ranked the Mexican economy the second most competitive in Latin America. In addition, Mexico gained nine spots this year from its World Bank 2010 ranking to number 38th globally, placing Mexico as the best country to do business in Latin America. So far 15,688 regulations and 2,189 overlapping procedures/services have been eliminated. The initiative has produced significant savings of $4,500 million dollars in 2009 and $ 2,500 million dollars in 2010, which is equivalent to 10 per cent of the total administrative costs. There has been a 45 per cent reduction of regulations of the Federal Government; a 69 per cent reduction of regulations inside the government; a 28 per cent reduction of regulations applied to businesses and citizens.

In September 2008, the Federal Government of Mexico launched a contest to reward citizens who denounced the most absurd bureaucratic procedure they had faced and who proposed the best solutions to cut red tape and bribery. The submissions for the “most useless procedure/transaction” contest spin tales of lengthy lines; unfriendly bureaucrats; the elicitation of bribes and requirements lacking common sense. The innovativeness of this initiative rests in the fact that the government involved citizens in cutting red tape and curbing corruption. At the same time, the government began a series of reforms, including the elimination of unnecessary rules, placing limits on the issuance of new rules, granting limited exceptions in attempts to issue provisions, and providing assurance, through transparency, to citizens concerning such reforms. This involved generating quality standards, automation and integration of internal processes of all agencies with a vision centered on the citizen, across all areas. Based on a thorough assessment of the existing regulations, and procedures/services, 29 per cent of the total procedures/services were eliminated during phase one of the initiative. During the second phase, regulations were simplified and standardized. Every 3 months the administration reviews 300 procedures on quality of customer service, information, corruption index, installation access, discrimination and overall satisfaction. During the third phase, modern technologies were adopted to provide easy access to public services through automation, reengineering, and one shop window projects.

For more information:

Nominations for the UN Public Service Awards 2012 (must be made online; deadline 31 December 2011):