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Jakarta Post

Reforming street-level bureaucracy: Jakarta model

  • Robert Endi Jaweng

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, July 13, 2013   /  12:33 pm

Nearly 45,000 civil servants in Greater Jakarta have just followed the open-recruitment process. They competed for 311 positions (267 district heads and 44 sub-district heads) under a new formation of street-level bureaucracy.

We should congratulate those who have been selected given the competitive process and the limited vacancies available. We should also appreciate candidates who joined the race but failed, including a number of incumbents (13 district heads and 49 sub-district heads).

Appreciation should go to Governor Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo and Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahja Purnama. Jakarta'€™s new leaders have upheld their campaign promise to reform the bureaucracy that was used to living in the comfort zone (status quo) but is now in a new level of dynamics: capacity-based advantage and integrity-based prime virtue in the competitive zone.

This breakthrough is also fairly intelligent. As a national showcase, the initiative that emerged in the capital city'€™s bureaucracy has resulted in a change that would contribute to the national public service system in the face of global contestation.

The change is evident in the investment services, which has increased our global ranking of doing business. In addition, the change in the capital city may influence other regions.

Public sector management can no longer use the static and linear method. Facing various bottlenecks and complex issues of development, the bureaucracy should be able to change in response to the dynamics of the external environment.

A variety of innovations and breakthroughs must be injected into the body of the bureaucracy. Commitment of the top political leaders to reform is important because true bureaucratic reform is a political process.

Jokowi'€™s option to start open recruitment from street-level bureaucracy was a smart and strategic move. With this under-current reform strategy, Jokowi seems poised to win the hearts and trust of the public quickly, directly and
tangibly.

The governor strives to build a new face of the country through the profile of his frontline officers who are expected to demonstrate innovation.

People in Jakarta very rarely '€” if ever '€” deal with high-ranking officials at City Hall and the five mayoral offices, but they have repeatedly visited the offices of districts and sub-districts for ID cards (KTP), family cards (KK), business licenses and so forth.

Starting open recruitment for the lowest post of bureaucracy shows that Jokowi is giving the priority of his bureaucratic reform to public services that directly deal with the people. This is a real effort to bring the state (state-in-practice, as Joel Migdal puts it) to the people.

However, this is simultaneously a challenge of the reform agenda Jokowi is promoting. If this mechanism of competition through open recruitment fails to produce superior and competent officers, Jokowi'€™s breakthrough will actually be counterproductive and may ignite disillusionment or even public anger. Indeed Jokowi'€™s breakthrough is not entirely supported by the internal bureaucracy as in the case of the Warakas sub-district head who openly objected to the new experimentation.

The challenge must be read as a work in progress that is far from over. Open recruitment is just the first step and the more significant process in the future is how to continue to build a more professional capacity of the '€œgraduates'€ of this open recruitment process. Capacity does not concern only technical expertise service, but primarily a change of culture-set and mental-model to provide service.

Power culture syndrome should be turned into a service delivery culture. It is not easy, but with the competitive mechanism of open recruitment as a tool to select the right man for the right job, public servants should comprise chosen people.

In addition, monitoring and evaluation to measure performance and control all forms of abuse of power must also be conducted in extraordinary ways, like the exceptional way used to recruit them.

District and subdistrict heads should be given a clear and measurable performance target to make sure they understand and do their best. They should also be subject to regular surveys to gauge community satisfaction with the services they provide.

Within a larger framework, the open recruitment is just the first step in a wider landscape of public sector reform in the capital.

Other major strategic steps must be connected to the agenda of preparing a road map on organizational structuring, streamlining structures, mental and cultural service development, strengthening business processes and bureaucracy governance.

 This is a macro bureaucratic reform agenda, and to some extent needs clear policy framework from the central government.

Without changes in the larger environment, street-level bureaucracy reform will only lead to a setback. Consequently, new district and sub-district heads as the product of the open recruitment process will find working in slum environments a thing of the past and feel like '€œa small fish in a big pond'€ '€” but where the water remains murky and is used by those who feel free to fish.

Accompanying the obsession of the new governor/deputy governor, the public should welcome the bureaucratic reform as part of efforts to build a '€œnew Jakarta'€, a very familiar tagline in the election campaign last year.

The writer is executive director of Regional Autonomy Watch (KPPOD), Jakarta.

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