Public Management and Dealing with Disasters

The global outbreak of COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of a country’s public management structure. A pandemic such as this affects the country’s entire population, and the decisions made by public managers determine the success or failure of the outcomes in the long run.

There are three legs of governance responsible for decision making, and they are equally important when it comes to matters such as this. They are economic, political, and administrative governance.

Economic governance entails the decision-making processes that directly affect the economic well-being of a country. It has an impact on the quality of life, poverty levels, and equality of the population. The current pandemic is a good example of this, the government has had to make difficult decisions regarding the shutting down of certain sectors of the economy, weighing up economic hardship versus the preservation of life.

Political governance relates to policymaking which includes national disaster planning measures and the way it combines the state and private sector stakeholders to determine the quality of the policy outcomes. This part of the process also determines what kind of assistance will be mandatory in the event of a national disaster.

Administrative governance is the part of the system that demands well-functioning organisations at local and provincial levels. This requires the implementation and enforcement of land-use planning, building codes, safety standards, human vulnerability, and environmental risk monitoring.

The decisions and policies of a government determine how the population and its economy survive and thrive after a disaster or a pandemic such as this. It is the government’s responsibility to protect its people, infrastructure and economy from disasters, and to make contingency plans to counter the effects.

Good governance always requires political transparency, tolerance, accountability, and efficiency. It is also good governance that leads to the mobilisation and creation of partnerships that give a voice to the poorest and most vulnerable. The principles of good governance provide the key to sustainable development and by implication to effective disaster risk reduction.

Some principles of good governance are:

  • An organisational culture committed to good public sector governance

Leaders need to embrace the principles as core values to guide their judgment and behaviour.

  • Stakeholder relationships

There will be internal stakeholders as well as external stakeholders and relationships with both need to be nurtured.

  • Compliance and accountability

Institutions that enforce accountability can include political legislative bodies, an ombudsman, and auditors.

  • Monitoring and evaluation

The monitoring and evaluation of government organisations’ performance is a crucial part of ensuring good governance and delivery of goods and services.

Where individuals in public management are concerned, there are certain characteristics needed to effectively handle a pandemic of crisis.

  • Vision and communication

It is important to have the communication ability to accurately convey the vision and mission to others.

  • Responsibility and command

Being unafraid of responsibility, considering choices and being decisive. This also speaks to having a sense of command, being able to tackle obstacles and settle disputes.

  • Making the right decision at the right time

This is a skill which can spell success or failure. It is important to always make the best decision possible for the moment.

  • Leadership and inspiration

The ability to guide and motivate a team of people towards a common goal.

  • Political sense

There is a distinction between being political and having political sense, this is the ability to say and do things that are in line with the accepted customs and convictions, the ability to read a room.

  • Empathy

People who work in public management require a certain level of empathy, to understand what others are going through and to have compassion for their situation.

A way for public managers to be ready for any eventuality and to expand their skill set is to continue working while completing a qualification which puts them a step ahead of the rest. The University of Pretoria offers such a qualification, fully online and applications are open.