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Public Sector Reform in Sudan

Dr. Elshafie Khidir Saeid – Khartoum

Addressing the public sector reform in Sudan is not just as a technical issue. More importantly it is a driving force behind an inclusive developmental model that can address the challenges ahead.

Central to this is to address the structural problems that have, for decades, hindered the building of the Post- Independence Sudanese State.

I always keep saying that since the dawn of its independence, 65 years ago, Sudan has still been a transitional period! No permanent constitution, no sustainable developmental programs, no agreed upon system of rule & governance, etc….,

 The country is suffering from what is called, in the Sudanese political literature, the “sinister episode” describing the series of coups, falling democracies, ethnic conflicts & civil wars.

This is a natural manifestation of the failure in resolving the fundamental issues related to the characteristics of the Sudan being very much diversified, multiethnic, multi-religious, and hence, building the post-independent state accordingly.

 Those fundamental issues include the proper system of governance, the equitable distribution of resources & wealth, the relationship between religion and the state, the question of identity….etc.

This big failure affects the reform of the public sector, as the different regimes since the independence have been treating the public sector as their private party, tribal or family ownership!!

The public sector reform can never be achieved unless there is a clear vision on the developmental pathway, a strong institutions at the different level of government, and sate capacity, which is both autonomous from interest groups (state capture) but embedded in the society, as well as working with the private sector along the whole spectrum of the developmental projects, from consultation up to the implementation stage.

However, the assumption that the private sector is always more efficient than the public sector is not universally true and it is not supported by evidence or historical experiences, at least in Africa.

To ensure the public sector reform, the priority must be to empower the planning process, so as to guarantee an implementable strategic development projects, and to make policies that when implemented will assist the long-term development of human capital and skills, and increase staff retention.

This planning process should be drafted jointly between public sector, private sector, and civil society including organizations of workers, employees, trade unions.

It is highly recommended to also take some other important and necessary measures including: 1- Building “Pockets of Effectiveness” to spearhead the reforms, deepen professionalization of the public service, and to sstabilizing the relationship between political leaders and the administrative leadership.

2- Reducing the political appointments in the civil service, and moving Sudan away from patronage systems in the public sector.

3- Combating corruption, and in this regard the role of the Auditory General is crucial.

Therefore, issues of accountability, enacting of rules, prosecutions…etc, should be tackled in this context, which to a great extent will depend on the nature of the transition in the country, the political processes, the autonomy of the judiciary etc.

The elites who assumed power after the independence adopted the ideology of development, that was based on unification, integration and modernization rather than addressing the reality of pluralism, diversity and democratic culture.

They defined Sudan through their own socio-cultural identity, and they used the state machinery to unify the country through assimilating and integrating peripheral populations in what has become known as ‘the mainstream culture’.

The interplay between assimilation and integration policy on one hand, and agricultural modernization and economic development on the other hand has facilitated this process and maintained the dominance of the ruling elites.

Both trends were exacerbated under the Ingaz regime.

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