Sri Lanka’s colonial heritage has a significant bearing upon the design as well and functioning of its public service apparatus. Despite being an ex-British colony like many other countries in the region, Sri Lanka’s society and government structure is a special case unlike many of its neighboring countries. It will be of little use to see the country’s historical and contemporary developments as a complimentary case of its neighboring nations. Meyers stated that there is more to be found by recognizing specificity of Sri Lanka than by regarding it as microcosm of India [1
]. The service sector is considered an engine of growth for a country, and in a country like Sri Lanka the efficiency of public sector becomes immensely important, as it is the largest employer as well as deliverer of public services in the country. Hsieh conducted an exhaustive study on the role of services sector in the growth of East Asian economies and have asserted a strong relationship between the two [2
]. With this background, the authors have made as effort to assess the impact of BPR in PSD in the country. While authors have attempted to put the case of BPR and PSD in a broader perspective, this is nonetheless a case with evidence and analysis related to original field data collected from public sector in Sri Lanka. While the data are unique, the model used and the findings are applicable to many other countries seeking improvement of PSD through BPR with expectations of improved efficiency of the public sector administration.
Sri Lanka Administrative Services (SLAS—established 1972) is the successor to Ceylon Administrative Services (CAS—established 1963). CAS was, in turn, the successor to the much older Ceylon Civil Services (CCS—established 1833). While the purpose of CCS was to help British colonial power to govern over its colony, SLAS has significantly different demands and expectations from its Sri Lankan clients. While, SLAS is one major public service provider in Sri Lanka, its functions are supplemented, and sometimes even duplicated, by layers of other offices, across several D&Ms. It certainly has been a great challenge for SLAS, along with other D&Ms, to deliver modern public services in modern times with a design and functionality inherited from CCS. As a result of mounting expectations and demands of more modern, independent and highly educated populace, SLAS and many other D&Ms of Sri Lanka underwent a major BPR regime during the last decade. BPR regime, in this context, meant (i) structural reforms, (ii) regulatory overhaul, and (iii) better performance control mechanisms. These three measures were put in place as mainstay of the BPR regime in order to ensure an efficient delivery of public services. While BPR was put into place, no effort has since been made to assess the propriety as well the outcome of the regime. In this paper we analyze the post-BPR-implementation state of affairs and measure the efficiency of the service across 29 D&Ms of Sri Lankan government through which most public services are delivered to the populace.
Hammer et al. defined BPR as “fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical, contemporary measures of performance” [3
]. Moreover, according to Ezigbo, “BPR involves rethinking of the current theories of business. Remarkable improvements are made by breaking away from following the old methods and adopting the newer ones” [4
]. Further BPR regime implementation has several aspects of open innovation as a continuous outside-in innovation element is ingrained in it; such is the purpose of this study, also, to allow the inside-outside-inside (IOI) feedback to the regime implementers. Gassmann et al. define open innovation as a bidirectional information process that leads to the process improvement, thus making open innovation a necessary corollary to BPR [5
]. It must be noted that BPR is a continuous process instead of a one-time event; thus, it is imperative that a continuous IOI feedback process be carried on, thus allowing innovation be incorporated into the process.
This way of defining BPR takes account of two key areas important to our case, i.e., fundamental rethinking and radical redesign. As we mentioned earlier, the colonial heritage of the public service apparatus in Sri Lanka has historically been a major impediment in the way of developing a more modern service. Two critical areas that stand out as prime targets for a BPR regime are: first, fundamental rethinking of the philosophy; second, a complete redesign of the structure of the business process in order to provide public service in an efficient manner. It may be noted that BPR did not start in one go in Sri Lanka; rather, it took off incrementally over many years. Only by 2010 did it take a recognizable shape in the form of strategic, policy, and action initiatives. These measures in turn resulted in creation as well elimination of several D&Ms across Sri Lanka. Re-engineering Government Program (Re-Gov) started with a blueprint issued in 2004 and sketched a detailed BPR process of public service with the program named ‘Program D’ with 24 (D1-D24) initiatives in various areas of governance targeted in the Sri Lanka. These measures were revealed in the eGovernment Strategy document prepared by Sri Lanka’s Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) in 2013 [6
]. Now, as almost ten years have passed since various BPR measure were implemented across the public service delivery apparatus, it seems pertinent to evaluate the outcome of the regime by comparing various inputs into this regime in the form of rules, structure redesign, and performance controls. In the next section, we lay down the details of the data used and the methodology applied to estimate the outcome of the BPR.
As we noted in the introduction to this paper, Sri Lankan public services have origins in a philosophy that stood diametrically opposed to the modern concepts of public service. The public service management needed to undergo a thorough process of reform and restructuring. As there were not many internal examples to follow in order to reinvent the service apparatus to be in tune with modern age requirements, the only approach left to avail was a IOI concept for management innovation, reform and restructure. However, before we move, it seems important that we put our research in perspective by taking a quick round-up of the contemporary and empirical studies conducted on this topic to-date.
Several studies have touched upon the topic of public service reforms in Sri Lanka, but no efforts have yet been made to assess the impact of the third and the most recent wave of reforms in the form of BPR regime put into effect. Some studies, however, have attempted to assess the impact of the first wave or the second wave. This makes our study one of its nature, and the originality of data and the broader scope it carries makes it stand out when compared to any other study on the topic. Park et al. have conducted an extensive study on several developing economies in Asia and have found a strong linkage between PSD reform and economics growth; though their study is not particularly related to the case of Sri Lanka [7
]. McCourt performed a cursory study of the three waves, and his findings were mostly related to employment reforms in Sri Lanka [8
]. In the context of PSD in Sri Lanka, Deshani et al. noted the problem of the lack of innovation in Sri Lankan public services [9
]. His findings indicated lack of a conceptual model with a core strategic leadership, as well as nonchalance towards a culture of achievement. As compared to the 3rd wave, the 1st and the 2nd waves have been mostly economy-related reforms. Ghatari et al. studied the effectiveness of public service delivery in the Galle district of Sri Lanka only, and that too from the perspective of public entrepreneurship [10
]. Ozcelik noted that if BPR is not properly performed, resulting integration can disrupt operations, impede productivity, hurt employee morale, and stifle growth [11
]. The same has been emphasized by Hesson et al., that careful planning and analysis are essential for a smooth, uninterrupted transition to the new business processes [12
]. James et al. carried out a BPR case study and found important linkages between BPR and public sector performance [13
]. That is, however, is a limited study about BPR in a single town of UAE; but have listed quite a few interesting research articles to substantiate the utility of BPR for PSD. Chesbrough conducted an in-depth case study of a BPR project at the Housing and Development Board of Singapore to explore and identify the unique characteristics of BPR in public organizations [14
]. Though the findings in [14
] have limited scope, we would still like to acknowledge the educational and research value of the study in the field of BPR and its relation to public services.
After repeated halfhearted attempts at reforms through the 1960s and 1970s, a completely new approach towards governance was introduced in 2010 under the concept of ReGovernance 2020 (ReGov). The approach adopted in this outline document called for out of the box solutions and called for opening up almost all areas of public service for innovative approach towards business process. Hence, a BPR regime with IOI based open-innovation as its core was launched to overhaul and reform the public service mechanisms of Sri Lanka. This led to an open-innovation policy of redesigning the whole business model of the PSD in the country. It is important to implement BPR with due diligence, as otherwise the consequences can be disastrous for the organizational structure as well as for the related economy. In early 2000, the introduction of the concept of open innovation within BPR regime was a relatively new concept at the time. While explaining the concept of open innovation, Fernando stated that “open innovation combines internal and external ideas into architectures and systems whose requirements are defined by a business model”. It was in this very context, that ReGov laid down an out-of-box reform process and kickstarted a great mesh IOI reform of the public service systems in Sri Lanka [15
]. Here, we see a shadow of Wijesinghe’s findings that stated that managerial innovations result in alterations in existing working patterns, systems, procedures, and styles, resulting in efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of public services [16
]. In short, open innovation serves as one of the core axioms of this reform wave; however, for the sake of focus and explanative ease, the paper mostly focuses on IOI based BPR regime in the Sri Lankan public services. Thanassoulis et al. stated that Sri Lankan public administration structure has undergone at least three distinct public reform waves [17
]. The first wave, as explained in the report of the Administrative Reforms Committee (ARC), laid down detailed/linked proposals with a major focus on civil service size. However, the first wave was only partially implemented as most reform measures were hampered by political instability. As noted earlier, Deshani et al. asserts that the second wave came with a focus upon structural reform of the management units, but the target areas were not clear and thus resulted in greater mess, and an enlarged public sector with little performance improvement [9
]. On the other hand, the third and the most recent wave has undertaken a major strategic shift in the philosophy and the structure of the public service administration.
BPR is composed mainly of (i) structural reforms, (ii) regulatory overhaul, and (iii) better performance control mechanisms as the mainstay of the regime in order to ensure an efficient PSD. While BPR regime was put into place, no effort has since been made to assess the propriety as well the outcome of the regime. In this paper, we analyze the post-BPR-implementation state of affairs and measure the efficiency of the service across 29 D&Ms. In the next sections of the paper, we explain our data sources, the methodology applied to analyze the situation, and, finally, discuss the outcomes of our research and analysis.
Thanassoulis stated that Sri Lankan public administration structure has undergone at least three distinct public reform waves [17
]. The first wave as explained in the report of Administrative Reforms Committee (ARC) laid down detailed/linked proposals with a major focus on civil service size. However, the first wave was only partially implemented as most reform measures were hampered by political instability. We have also already noted that Deshani et al. found that the second wave had a structural reform focus; however, the target areas were not clear and implementation of the reforms resulted in disarray and did not result in any noticeable performance improvement [9
]. The third and the most recent wave introduced a major strategic shift in the philosophy and the structure of the public service administration.
Despite many studies related to the public service reforms in Sri Lanka, none have yet assessed the impact of the third and the most recent wave of reforms in the form of BPR regime. From our findings in the literature section, we already know that Deshani et al. performed a cursory study of the three waves and his findings were mostly related to employment reforms [9
]. As compared to the 3rd wave, the 1st and the 2nd waves have been mostly economy-related reforms. Deshani et al studied the effectiveness of public service delivery in Galle district of Sri Lanka only, and that too from the perspective of public entrepreneurship [10
]. Sultonov used DEA approach to estimate health expenditure efficiency for developing countries including Sri Lanka [25
]. In this study, life expectancy at birth and infant survival are used as output, and per capita total expenditure on health, physicians’ density, nursing density and hospital beds are used as input. The results show that, in general, efficiency scores for Sri Lanka are only slightly higher than the average of the efficiency scores for developing countries, but the efficiency scores do not reach the efficiency frontier line for developing countries.
We carried out this study from the perspective of a totality of public service provision in Sri Lanka in the wake of most recent BPR regime. We cannot take an entrepreneurial perspective, as expected output is given (i.e., public satisfaction per se) and only change can be implemented from the inputs, i.e., the reformative actions. We identified three reformative actions forming the core of the BPR regime namely, rules, structure, and the control actions. Through changes in these three input areas, we assessed the efficiency of the public service systems in Sri Lanka. As a logical consequence, we applied input-oriented DEA to the survey data in order to identify the overall as well as the relative efficiency of the service providers. Accordingly, the questionnaire was structured in a format to allow us determine the efficiency status of the PSD. The data analysis shows that 4 DMUs out of a total of 29 DMUs are efficient with reference to the scale; whereas DMU21, though not at 100% scale efficiency, still falls in the peer groups (Table 4
). The disparity of the scale efficiencies can be attributed to the latent inefficiencies or lack of full implementation of the BPR regime across the DMU. Out of 29 D&Ms, 12 are having IRS, meaning there is still room to improve performance in order to achieve full-scale efficiency. Five DMUs are faced with DRS, meaning there is a capacity to increase the scale of service delivery in order to achieve scale efficiency. Other 12 DMUs are in a state of CRS, including 4 DMUs (DMU14, DMU22, DMU27 and DMU29) who have achieved CRSTE, VRSTE as well as scale efficiency. It has been demonstrated by Rodder et al. and Annrong et al. that adjusting the scale towards optimum scale we can enhance the level of efficiency [26
]. We can therefore safely conclude that, out of 29 DMUs, 25 DMUs can increase public service delivery efficiency by adjusting the scale of their operations.
Peer analysis has given us an insight into the rankings of the DMUs and we can identify the benchmark DMUs from the lagging DMUs (Table 4
. Understanding and making use of peer weights is not very straightforward; however, the same results can be adjusted to understand and explain cross efficiency by adopting gap-minimization techniques. Gap minimization will help eliminate extreme efficiency cases through an efficiency landscape developed by applying aggressive and benevolent cross efficiency evaluation approach. This approach has been fairly explained [28
], and can be applied in situations of extreme efficiency. However, in our case, most efficient as well as less efficient DMUs are located fairly close by, and none can be identified as extreme efficiency cases.
Finally, our analysis in Table 4
has also produced targets for both input as well as output. Najmeh et al. explained in their model that target setting could be integrated with performance assessment while simultaneously taking decision makers’ preferences into account [29
]. However, they applied an output-oriented approach into their model. On the other hand, we are using an input-oriented model, so we shall mostly focus on an input reduction approach to enhance efficiency of our lagging DMUs. The authors further proposed an input-oriented target setting approach for DEA, and we are inclined to favor their approach in this matter. Findings of two earlier studies by Jehan et al. also supplement the concepts developed in this paper [30