Christopher Famous
Christopher Famous

Today I will begin to examine the OBA’s not so secret, anti-civil service, anti-union weapon.

On March 19, the SAGE Commission Act of 2013 was approved in the House thus making way for the formation of the Island’s first Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission.

As outlined on the SAGE Commission website, its function is to:

Review, assess and propose a redesign of the organizational structure of Government which may include streamlining, consolidating or eliminating redundant and unnecessary agencies that have overlapping missions

Identify operational improvements aimed at cost effectiveness and improved service quality

Identify activities that can be privatized or outsourced

Identify targets and other means for measuring efficiencies

SAGE will consist of four working committees looking at: streamlining; performance; measurement & metrics; Privatization & outsourcing. 

 SAGE promises to make government more efficient by cutting waste and improving processes isn’t a new concept. Similar promises have proven to be very popular with the electorate and are promises that many politicians are more than happy to make during their pre-election campaigning.

SAGE Commissions are widely used throughout the US and have had varying results. California’s attempt at a SAGE Commission in 2004 by the then Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger was riddled with attacks aimed at unions,  and government employees. Sound familiar? Needless to say, his attempts to reform government via SAGE were deemed a complete failure.  

The success of previous SAGE Commissions has been linked to developing sound recommendations that are:-

bipartisan and inclusive;

transparent in their operations and dealings;

succinct in recommendations; 

clear in the ultimate goal of improving government in the interest of all citizens.

Formulating recommendations is relatively easy, proven by Schwarzenegger’s SAGE Commission that managed to pen over 1,200 such recommendations!  It is the actual implementation of these recommendations where many SAGE Commissions prove to fall short. This is primarily due to a failure to have the staff and plans to implement recommendations and consistent executive follow-up.

Bipartisanship and inclusion have historically been proven to be key elements to the success of any SAGE Commission. Not surprisingly, the OBA has failed to be either in its selection of members for their Commission.  

True to its pro-business core, the OBA’s SAGE Commission is primarily made up of representatives from the white-collar, private business sector. While the accomplishments of the members of the Commission are impressive, SAGE’s remit is to examine the functions of government.

Governments are not structured nor do they operate using the same mechanics as private companies.   As such, the OBA would have been wise to have included experts from within the ranks of our civil service who understand how the public sector operates.   

Gaining buy-in and support from labour is essential for not only the development of the recommendations but also to their implementation. It was no shock to many that the OBA once again side-stepped the unions in this vital consultative process.