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Malawi, Strengthening Service Delivery through the Public Sector Reforms

Wednesday, 20 June 2018 17:34 Written by 
  • Location(s): Malawi
  • Type(s): Solution
  • Theme(s): Public Services
  • SDG(s): 11. Sustainable cities and communities, 16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • Locations in Africa: Malawi
  • Types in Africa: Solution
  • Themes in Africa: Public Services
  • SDGs in Africa: 11. Sustainable cities and communities, 16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • Types of ComSec Solutions: Solution


Malawi's Growth and Development Strategies III lays out ambitious development trajectories to address the country's development challenges within a restricted resource envelope. The delivery of development targets is therefore all the more contingent on a strong and public service at all levels – policy, institutional, individual. As government will be rolling out the implementation of the MGDS III, the public service is the main driver for the formulation and implementation of the country’s development strategy and the sustainable development goals. The proposed laws and policies will foster an effective and efficient public sector which leads to the achievement of SDG goal number 16 which promotes peaceful and inclusive societies and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. To address challenges in slow outcomes of several public sector reforms over the past decades, the Government of Malawi established a Public Sector Reforms Management

Unit within the Office of the President and cabinet to scale up delivery of the reform. A particular focus was brought to replicating successful examples from Kenya and Singapore on the establishment of the Malawi School of Government and performance contracting and local service delivery.


While Malawi has made made important progress on several of the Millennium Development Goals over the past decades, poverty and inequality remain high, especially in rural areas where 50% of the population is still poor (Source: World Bank). Most opportunities for work are in subsistence farming, an area highly affected by droughts and climate related shocks over the past years. The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III) 2017-2022, aims to accelerate transition to a productive, competitive and resilient nation. It is anchored on five key priority areas: (a) Agriculture, Water Development and Climate Change; (b) Education and Skills Development; (c) Energy, Industry and Tourism Development; (d) Transport and ICT Infrastructure and; (e) Health and Population. Peace, good governance and effective decentralization are key enablers for achieving sustainable and inclusive development. The 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were integrated into the MGDS III as a result of UNDP’s advocacy and technical support. Given that Malawi achieved only 4 of the eight MDGs, the transition to the SDGs will require enhanced coordination and integration both at planning and implementation levels. A National Planning Commission created in 2017 is responsible for the oversight of MGDS implementation. The delivery of development targets is therefore all the more contingent on a strong and public service at all levels –

policy, institutional, individual. The Government of Malawi has carried out several public sector reforms before the launch of its Malawi Growth and Development Strategy II (2012 -2016). These reforms had mainly focused on improving skills and competencies in leadership, human resource planning and management, but only yielded mixed results and were reviewed with a stronger emphasis on ethics and accountability in 2013. Amongst other indicators, the MGDS III benchmarks its success on the continued implementation of public sector reforms through a “business unusual” approach in key reform areas. The support to the government of Malawi will translate into putting into effect policies, laws and systems that transforms the sector as per the policies’ goal to formulate “a results oriented and high performing public service by 2022 that facilitates positive transformation of the economy and the country’s modernization”.


Through its five years Public Sector Capacity Development Project (PCSD) launched in 2012, and carried out in collaboration with UNDP, UNV and UNDESA, the Government of Malawi has shifted the focus towards „results based“ programme goals and critical performance improvement policies. PCSD seeks to strengthen the capacity of the public service through: i) Review and implementation of policies, rules and regulations that support efficient public service delivery; ii) Increasing leadership/management skills, competencies and ethical values to drive the national development agenda; iii) Strengthening human resource planning and management capacities in the different MDAs within the public service; and iv) Promoting innovative and integrated application of ICT within public service. Following a large financial mismanagement scandal which erupted in 2013, an exchange on lessons learned around anti-corruption with authorities from Botswana led the government to request a forensic audit of the Malawi

Treasury and involved line ministries, which was financially supported by DFID UK. In 2014, the Government resolved to scale up the delivery of the reforms and established a public service reforms commission. Upon their appointment a delegation from the Commission. the Public Sector Reforms Management Unit and UNDP visited Kenya and Singapore on a benchmarking tour to learn from their best practices in public sector reform, and received two missions from Singapore to backstop the reform implementation and strengthen strategic foresight. The overall recommendations and findings of these South-South exchanges was summarized in the report “Looking into the future: Making Malawi work: Transforming Malawi's Public Service“ and can be found here. A particular focus was given to performance contracting in the public sector, an area where Kenya has gained important experience since its introduction in 2004. Kenya's practical experience on the institutionalization of performance contracting in Government systems and its contribution to effective service delivery allowed Malawian officials to design new Performance Contracting Tools and improve the management of their sector working groups. A comprehensive methodology for performance contracting was developed by the Malawian Cabinet Performance Enforcement Division and adopted in a circular issued by the Chief Secretary in 2015. Building on the lessons learnt from the benchmarking tour to Kenya, the commission recommended the set up of one stop service delivery centres at local level, using the infrastructures of existing post offices. Supported by the World Bank, three centres in the Lilongwe, Mangochi and Mzimba districts have been finalized in 2017. Several follow up exchanges, including the visit of a delegation from the Parliament of Malawi, were organized with the Kenya School of Governance, a centre of excellence on Public service integrity in order to establish a long term relationship that would allow government to set up a School of Government in Malawi. The objective was to transform, innovate and reposition the the Malawi Institute of Management and Staff Development Institute, which are mandated to build the capacity of public servants at all levels, therefore creating a more responsive public sector and higher quality basic services. In line with a roadmap coming out of these exchanges, a bill to set up this school will be submitted to legislators in February 2018. In addition, the efforts of the past years have allowed to resolve the confusion of roles between Principal Secretaries and Ministries due to conflicting mandates between the Public Service Act (1994) and the Constitution. The elaboration of a Public Sector Reforms Policy and of a Public Service Management Policy have transformational effects on the management of the Public Service.

Suported by: UNDP, DFID and World Bank

Implemented by: Office of the President and Cabinet, Public Sector Reforms Management Unit

Contact person: Seodi White, Chief Director, Public Sector Reforms Management Unit, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Read 8280 times Last modified on Saturday, 02 February 2019 06:04
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