Turkey very weak in good governance in public sector

Turkey very weak in good governance in public sector

Barçın Yinanç - barcin.yinanc@hdn.com.tr
Turkey very weak in good governance in public sector Turkey ranks poorly in an OECD report on public good governance, but the current situation is even worse than portrayed in the study, according to Professor Metin Çakmakçı. 

Turkey has a very weak culture of good governance in the public sector, as fundamental principles like transparency and stakeholder participation are neglected for the sake of rapid decision-making, said Çakmakçı, the chairman of the Board of Directors at the Argüden Governance Academy.

Tell us about the findings of the OECD Regulatory Policy Outlook Report.

Good governance is key if our main focus is the happiness and welfare of society. The main aim even in the health sector is not just health but people’s happiness. So we need to develop the tools for the happiness and welfare of society. 

The report focuses on three issues of regulatory impact assessment, stakeholder engagement and ex-post evaluation in regulatory processes. The effectiveness of 34 member countries have been compared on the data collected in 2014 by a survey among political decision makers. With small differences, the principles of good governance is the same in the public or private sector or NGOs. We need to base our work on data; we need transparency, accountability and stakeholder participation while taking decisions.

The OECD Regulatory Policy Outlook Report which was released last year focuses on three issues of regulatory impact assessment, stakeholder engagement, and ex-post evaluation in regulatory processes. Basically it asks the question of whether there has been sufficient impact analysis while taking a decision, enough stakeholder participation and an impact analysis after the decision has been taken and implemented. It is based on a survey among political decision makers; it does not involve research in the field. 

On the first and third issues, Turkey ranks around 30 among 34 countries, whereas in the stakeholder aspect, it ranks in the middle of the list.

However, there are questions as to whether the necessary concepts, institutions or mechanisms are there or not. For instance, is there a requirement for an Environmental Impact Assessment (ÇED)? Yes, there is. But is it properly implemented? You don’t find the detail in that survey.

So, probably our performance is even worse than that shown in the report, and we think that the survey could be misleading as far as Turkey is concerned. But the report is still very important as it provides us an opportunity to think and work on the issue.

So what is the main problem with Turkey?

It’s a bit cosmetic. We have not internalized public good governance. Look at the practice of omnibus laws. It is neither transparent nor participatory. Probably some of the parliamentarians who raise their hands to vote in favor of an omnibus law do not even know the content.

But the government can argue that it is doing so in order to work and deliver in a fast manner.

Omnibus laws are bad examples of good governance. Transparency and participation is very important in contemporary societies. In Turkey, participation in public decision-making is limited to voting in elections. We need to participate in public decision-making by getting in touch with the parliamentarians, or taking a side in a decision that will affect our lives. But there is no such thing in Turkey. 

The problem here is this: the costs of the decision taken by the state are not assumed by the state but by others. It is much healthier if the state takes decisions with a small margin of error. How can you minimize error? By basing your work on data, consulting stakeholders, asking them how they will be affected by that decision. Then you can take the decision you want. If you take a decision without all these processes, you end up with unintended consequences, and you never realize where they come from and, in the end, it has a higher cost for society.

On top of it all, you harm confidence. The compliance and enforcement cost rises, and that leads to higher friction in society. Where you have high friction, things do not work properly. Fast decision-making should not be the norm; it should be limited. Otherwise, you lose confidence in society. And the cost of losing confidence in society is much higher.

The gist of governance is not to take the right decision all the time, it is to implement the right processes; that produces confidence. And we need to have confidence in institutions, not individuals. We are very weak in terms of implementing the right processes. And societies that lack confidence in their institutions lose their competitiveness and fall behind others.

What is your evaluation in terms of the past 10, 20 years? Has there been no progress in terms of good governance?

In terms of public good governance, I think we are going backwards. But this is, of course, a subjective evaluation that is not based on data. Where there is progress is the publicly traded companies open to the outside world and the NGOs that are in communication with foreign interlocutors.

At the beginning of the 2000s, some mechanisms for good governance were endorsed. But they were not implemented; when they are not implemented you do not acquire the ability to learn from mistakes. If you do not measure the impact of the decision you have taken, then you cannot improve your decision-making quality because unmeasured performance cannot improve future performances. You don’t improve the quality of your decision-making because you aren’t even aware of the impact of the decision. 

But people want to have fast access to services which forces states to act and deliver quickly.

Yes, but what is the cost of that fast decision-making? Electricity, transportation and communications are more expensive [compared to other countries]. How much are you paying for that service and what are the sacrifices you are making? You need to see that, too. 

The problem is not making mistakes but the sense of correcting it when you make a mistake. Why are there more mistakes in the public sector than in the private sector? After all, these are the same people. Because in the public there is no mechanism of ex-post evaluation that will enable you to learn from mistakes. We have so many bad examples of decisions taken without proper impact analysis, in education and the health sector. 

Tell us what the Argüden Academy is doing to promote good governance.

In cooperation with Boğaziçi University, we are organizing an education program for the young potential leaders of the future who are working in the public sector. We will have the first graduates of that certificate program in autumn when we will also start the same program for NGOs.

One of our projects is to include women on the boards of directors. Having women on boards is important because diversity diminishes the probability of error. We are preparing the curriculum of the education program in cooperation with four universities and, in addition, 40 business leaders work person to person with 40 women in high-level positions in our mentorship program.

We have programs for awareness on gender equality for companies that help them improve their practices on that issue. 

We provided our views for good governance at the G-20 summit which took place in Antalya last year.
We are also walking the walk since we have endorsed integrated reporting in order to be accountable to our supporters.

Who is Metin Çakmakçı

Turkey very weak in good governance in public sector

Prof. Dr. Metin Çakmakçı is the chairman of the board of directors at the Arguden Governance Academy.

He received his medical degree from Hacettepe University, Ankara, in 1981 and completed his general surgery residency at the same institution in 1986. He holds a post-graduate degree in Healthcare Management from Marmara University. 

Çakmakçı is currently a board member and medical (surgery) director at Anadolu Medical Center. 

He worked in the Acıbadem Healthcare Group between 2000 and 2007 and was the medical director at Hacettepe University hospital in Ankara before he moved to Istanbul.

Çakmakçı, whose main surgical areas of interest include surgical infections and oncological, abdominal and breast surgery, has published in over 100 national and international journals and is on the editorial board of various journals. 

He founded the first pioneering patient safety organization at Acıbadem in 2000.

He is a founding board member at Quality in Healthcare Association and served between 2010 and 2013 as chairman of the Turkish Ethics and Reputation Society, where he is still a board member.