What does it mean to be Public Manager

A topical-interest article regarding public institutions activity, published in 2006 in Local Public Administration Romanian Magazine. And a habit of mine that became already a reflex even if I am not by name a public manager anymore: to observe flaws of a system and to oppose to conformation. As natural and human is the change resistance, the same is natural to me the „conformation resistance”.

 by Raluca Filip Iasi,

Public Manager Iasi County Prefecture

 At the beginning of my activity in this job I used to answer to the questions like “what does it mean and what does a public manager” with quotations from the special laws of public managers (Law 156 / 2005, GD 783 / 2005 regarding Methodological Norms, GO 56 / 2004, Decree 854 / 2004, Law 452 / 2004 and GO 6 / 2005).

Now, after almost 2 years of experience as Public Manager, my answer is more complex and more complete, considering also my previous public administration experience. Thus in theory, the name itself should define the integral activity of a public manager in a central or local public administration institution. In practice, the public manager is what the top-management of that institution makes of him/her: a special status civil servant “thrown away” in a department and forgotten about or a project coordinator who acts in the department where he/she is called or where he/she observes that his/her intervention is needed. This can be done by authority delegation, both formally and non-formally to the public manager and by “decisional de-concentration” to specific projects of the public manager. He/She doesn’t have to be in a department, no matter what department, because he/she can coordinate programmes, projects and activities in any domain (where his/her expertise is needed). Graphically this can be transposed in the organizational chart of the institution by “separation” of the public manager and his team, like in the “Internal Audit” or “Control Body” cases. Where the PM doesn’t have a formal team, it is that of the department where he temporarily conducts his “reforming” activity. Because the separation mentioned before it has to remain only a graphical representation of the freedom of action and not to become isolation and lack of communication towards other public institution departments.

 Concerning the concrete activity in a PM Job, I think there are no “good practice” examples, there is only practice. It is true that when I present my realized projects (activity reports, evaluation reports and informal discussions) I accentuate on those projects considered successful. But they are not by far perfect and I now best the obstacles that I passed or I didn’t pass. I want to remember them because, by all means, I want to avoid them next time. That is why when I talk about practice, I bring to discussion the things to avoid – offering my experience advantage to those around me for them not to deal with the same obstacles.

 Due to the limited publishing space, I remind only an example. The First National Conference of Public Managers, organized in Iasi on 30th of June 2006, was a success, as the participants and guests present there are asserting. The major disadvantage of organizing a manifestation of such scope by a tertiary credit coordinator (like a county prefecture) is the lack of funds. The disadvantage can be surpassed by appealing to sponsors (sponsorship running, sincerely said) but the recommendation is that all payment (between sponsor and beneficiary, between beneficiary and service providers – printing, serigraphy, catering, etc.) to be unfold through one of the sponsor or through a partner (legal operation, it can be mentioned in the sponsorship / partnership agreement). Otherwise, the Order of Public Finance Ministry (1661/2003) for approving methodological norms of cashing and using funds from donations and sponsorships by public institutions, stipulates 9 different steps (with its own due time) for approving cashing / payment of sponsorship funds, steps to be accomplished by a tertiary credit coordinator like a prefecture for example.

 Being a Public Manager means to provoke and manage change in better (both internal and external) of public institutions where we activate – ingrate mission with late recognition, sort of post-mortem glory, useful only to heirs and only to those heirs who obtained and registered author rights.

 And why should we change anything? To get to “European standards”? No, because much invoked European standards mean only common sense and civilization, nothing else extra. They are covered in a certain form– still bureaucratic of course, standardized, European level accepted– different though of the form that Romanian public administration is used to.

 The answer is simple: because “modernization”, “reform” and the mentioned “European standards” should not be empty words anymore, met in dry speeches. We can make them concrete concepts, tangible and earthly – like the world and real problems we confront every day.