So we know the problems, no one in government actually has authority to make decisions and ask what’s the right thing to do here? Here’s how we put people back in charge:
Civil Service Reform
The current discipline and termination systems at all levels of government are broken. The “merit system” has become the anti-merit system. Accountability systems need to be overhauled to ensure exceptional employees are rewarded, while incompetent ones are disciplined or removed in a timely manner.
The current procurement and budgeting systems place a greater trust in central planning and bureaucratic rigidity than they do in public servants’ ability to exercise judgment and discretion. Rather than these systems, “capable people must be given the responsibility and authority to do their job. Lines of communication must be kept as short as possible. People on the job must be held accountable for the results.”
Free Officials to Use Judgement
Rules and regulations have become so detailed that officials no longer have the authority to take problems as they are – everything must be fit into a pre-existing box. The solution is both radical and, literally, simple: Simplify law so people can understand it and have flexibility to honor basic values of right and wrong.
Consider what Australia did for their nursing homes in the late 1980s. Following several inquiries into nursing home abuses, Australia scrapped its detailed, input-oriented regulations (for example, requiring floor area of “at least 80 feet per resident”) and replaced them with 31 general principles (such as providing a “home-like setting” and honoring residents’ “privacy and dignity”). Quality improved measurably and all constituents, including nursing home proprietors and residents, felt empowered by the broad principles.