Commonwealth Governance Handbook 2012/13

Commonwealth Governance Handbook 2012/13 is the comprehensive guide to public sector reform and innovation in the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Secretariat, through its Governance and Institutional Development Division (GIDD), helps countries deliver ‘Just and Honest Government’: the core Commonwealth value that underpins democracy and development.

Commonwealth Governance Handbook brings together the knowledge and experience of the Secretariat and related agencies such as the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM). This edition covers:

• Commonwealth assistance: ‘best fit’ rather than ‘best ..practice’ governance solutions
• Key governance functions; regional and global challenges
• Political-administrative and state-civil society relations
• Leadership and innovation in the public sector: CAPAM and …United Nations award winners
• Women in political leadership
• ICTs for governance and transparency
• Environmental governance: land, oceans and climate change.

The publication also contains 54 governance profiles of member countries, as well as progress on the Millennium Development Goals and other indicators.





Introduction by Max Everest-Phillips, Director, GIDD

An effective, efficient and equitable public administration is essential for achieving a robust democracy and delivering on development goals. Well-organised states require strong bureaucratic and administrative capacities to succeed in both of these ambitions. A well-organised civil service is at the heart of deepening democratic institutions and achieving sustainable development – the two central pillars of the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth therefore places great importance on its collective endeavour of using its shared tradition in public administration to help strengthen the quality of bureaucracy in member states. Through its efforts at capacity-building in the public sector of member states, it aims to assist delivery of national and international development goals and bolster democratic principles including accountability and transparency.

This book seeks to illustrate some of the public sector development and governance innovations under way around the developing countries in the Commonwealth. It also highlights trends in applying the latest research and evidence in public administration to the very varied contexts across the Commonwealth’s diverse membership.

All the articles in different ways underline that in today’s world, developing countries more than ever require a highly trained public administration to cope with complex international pressures and problems such as climate change and economic shocks. Domestically, an efficient and high-quality bureaucracy is needed to promote economic growth and job creation through reducing red tape and patronage. An effective, efficient and equitable public administration matters for improving the lives of all.

Effective, impartial bureaucracy makes you happy!

More surprising, research is increasingly showing something particularly interesting and perhaps important about the public sector. Of course, the centrality of public administration in every aspect of a country’s collective endeavours is clear because the effectiveness of public services matters for the efficient delivery of services to citizens. Yet public administration plays an even more essential role for both democracy and development. The evidence demonstrates that impartial and effective public administration builds trust in essential and far-reaching ways. It creates trust in society between the state and citizenry; in the economy, between employers and employees; and in markets, between all parties to any commercial transaction.

As a result, we are increasingly aware that trust in government and the resulting legitimacy of the state in the eyes of its population are not principally created by democracy, by the rule of law, by human rights, or by efficiency and effectiveness – they are the outcomes of the perceived impartiality of the key public institutions that exercise government authority.

Citizens’ perceptions of ethics in public administration are increasingly identified as the key factor both in shaping satisfaction with public services, and trust in politics and political leaders. The implications of this are profound.

Trust in public administration is essential, for example, for tax compliance on which the delivery of public services and development goals depend. Taxation is a critical area for the Commonwealth’s ‘Just and Honest Government’ principle, because the ability to raise revenue, to provide public goods, is a core function and attribute of the state.

Successful tax collection is premised on how citizens’ generally perceive the trustworthiness of the state and of the tax authority as fair, effective and efficient. Tax enforcement must appear a legitimate exercise of state power. The perceived fairness of the tax system in turn results in an effective state. Voluntary compliance – all citizens willingly comply without the need for state compulsion – is the ideal that modern tax systems seek to achieve. In practice, all tax systems accept quasi-voluntary tax compliance that combines some compulsion. Citizens’ tax morale – the inherent willingness to pay taxes – is shaped by many factors, including fair and equitable enforcement. Sound and fair domestic taxation systems promote good governance because it is hard to raise tax without ‘bargaining’ with citizens. Historically, bargaining between rulers and taxpayers increased the state’s capacity to collect and administer taxes, and its accountability to citizen-taxpayers. In turn, the way public resources are raised and managed can stimulate greater government capability, building a more legitimate and effective state.

Taxation shows it is therefore impossible to over-stress the importance of the perception of a trustworthy, reliable, impartial and reasonably uncorrupt public administration as a precondition for citizens’ willingness to trust in democracy and support the state. Such bureaucratic characteristics shape the material and moral difference between societies. Where these elements are not present in public administration, citizens’ obligations, duties and social morality remain strictly personal. This limits the potential of collective action to solve national challenges.

States capable of addressing development challenges and deepening democracy are more likely to be those where the ‘mental model’ is the collective rationality of impersonal ‘Weberian’ administration – of an effective, efficient and equitable bureaucracy. As this, research suggests, is essential if people are to trust the state and believe in the legitimacy of public authority.

So the quality of public administration is fundamental to public trust in governmental institutions, and citizens’ perceptions of the impartiality and credibility of public administration is essential for people’s sense of well-being – more important even than political representation.

Even more startling is that taxation and happiness can be linked: research has demonstrated that good quality public administration makes people happy. Citizens can lead contented and fulfilling lives when they live in a country with an efficient public administration, and a fair and honest bureaucracy they believe they can trust. The happiness of the populace, it appears, is in no small part the product of high standards in the structures, performance management and human resource systems of the public service.

The Commonwealth is doing comparatively well…

Effective public bureaucracy is associated with poverty reduction. The Commonwealth’s core principle of ‘Just and Honest Government’ cannot be achieved without an efficient, effective and equitable public administration. The positive news is that Commonwealth members, at their own levels of development, continue to perform better (on average) than non-Commonwealth countries in most areas of governance, including public administration itself and the many factors shaping its performance. This conclusion is according to leading international attempts to measure governance such as the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators and the Mo Ibrahim Index. Efficient public administration is clearly a success story among African Commonwealth members, according to the Ibrahim Index, not least as no Commonwealth country ranks among the bottom ten in Africa for human development. Indeed, the Commonwealth states in Africa on average outperform their non-Commonwealth counterparts in every key indicator of the Ibrahim Index. Seven out of the top ten ranked countries in the Index are Commonwealth states, while none of the bottom ten ranked countries are members of the Commonwealth. In evaluating rule of law, eight of the top ten ranked countries are part of the Commonwealth, and the Index suggests Commonwealth countries in Africa appear more committed than non Commonwealth states to the provision of electoral freedoms and basic rights to their citizens. Commonwealth countries in Africa also exhibit a commitment to transparency and accountability in the public sector. Eight Commonwealth countries are ranked in the top ten in fighting corruption among public officials. There are no Commonwealth states ranked in the bottom ten for this measure.

In fostering human rights, four out of the top five countries in Africa are Commonwealth countries, while Commonwealth members are more committed to providing education to their citizens, with only three representatives of the Commonwealth among the bottom 20 countries in the Ibrahim Index for providing education.

The Commonwealth is home to many of the world’s small island developing states (SIDS), and it appears they too are doing comparatively well in public administration. In managing their economies, the top ten SIDS in the quality of regulation were Commonwealth members, seven of which were located in the Caribbean. On fiscal prudence as measured by total budget revenue as a proportion of total budget expenditure, the Commonwealth boasted the top five SIDS. In the formulation of policies that are conducive to the flourishing of the country’s private sector (such as competition policy, the investment climate and cutting ‘bureaucratic red tape’), four out of the top five SIDS are Commonwealth members. On political governance, the best SIDS for political stability and security are Pacific Commonwealth members, whereas for effectiveness, two-thirds of the top performing SIDS are Caribbean Commonwealth members – and no Commonwealth state is in the lowest ranks of this indicator.

This evidence is illustrative of the progress that has been achieved. The Commonwealth of course recognises the complexity of governance, and the difficulty therefore in trying to measure it. As such, these findings are inevitably only indicative rather than definitive. But using a broad range of governance indicators gives confidence in the general trend – the relative success of Commonwealth members and the progress member states have been making in their pursuit of good governance.

…but not doing well enough

Despite the positives, there are still, however, major problems that need to be addressed in the Commonwealth. Poverty remains a key challenge in many Commonwealth member states, and strengthening public administration is a key way of addressing this challenge. Of the world’s poor, 63 per cent still live in Commonwealth states. Developing countries in the Commonwealth continue to suffer high rates of poverty, with 47 per cent of their population living in poverty as compared to 32 per cent in non Commonwealth countries. Additionally, out of the 53 Commonwealth states classified by the World Bank by income level, more than half are categorised as low-income (gross national income [GNI] per capita of US$1,025 or less) or lower middle-income (GNI per capita of $1,026 to $4,035); and half of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable one billion people live in the Commonwealth.

Some areas show particularly worrying failings. For example, while HIV prevalence has fallen in 11 countries in the Commonwealth since 1990, it has risen in 16 others. There are 20 million sufferers in the Commonwealth. Only 5 per cent of the Commonwealth developing countries are likely to achieve the Millennium Development target for reducing child mortality, and two-thirds of all maternal deaths are in Commonwealth countries. By 2025, poverty will probably be mainly concentrated in fragile, low-income and African states, with five of the ten most poverty stricken countries expected to be Commonwealth members.

These development challenges place poverty reduction at the centre of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s mandate. One key response is fostering a partnership among member states for strengthening the public administration needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and national visions for peace, progress and prosperity. Deepening democracy matters too, not just for its intrinsic importance but for its instrumental role in creating the political incentives for governments to care about the welfare of their populations.


The central message throughout this book is that effective, efficient and equitable bureaucracy is vital to the future development of all member states. Underlying all the articles that follow is the importance not just of efficiency and effectiveness, but also of impartiality and fairness in the civil service. These qualities matter not just for properly delivering public services but also for creating and maintaining the trust that builds the well-being of both people and the economy, and fosters political stability.

Therefore, despite the fact that Commonwealth states are performing well in some indicators relating to governance and public administration, there is still a lot of work to do. In order to tackle such difficulties, the Commonwealth Secretariat partners with its member states to find ways in which to achieve the common ambition of better governance, a more effective civil service, better public finances – and, yes, more happiness!