V: South Pacific

Public Sector Paradigm Shift to an Outcome-Based Focus: Insights from Fiji

Nirmala Nath and Umesh Sharma


The interest in outcome-based performance management was experienced with the advent of New Public Management (NPM) at a global level (Hood 1991; Bouckaert 1995; Bouckaert and Peters 2002). In pursuit of NPM, governments aspired to achieve particular political and economic outcomes for sustainable results (Bauer 1966; Politt 2001; Halligan 2007). With a focus on outcome-based service delivery, the public sector worldwide experienced major reforms, pursuing leaner entities with a drive for efficiency, improvements, and enhanced accountability (Hood 1995). As a result, there was a shift in public sector deliverables, with the governments focusing on promoting and measuring performance in relation to “well-being.” This aspect was considered in terms of outcomes or making a meaningful difference in the quality of people’s lives. Furthermore, there are claims that the success of NPM in improving public sector accountability and service delivery is dependent on the adoption of a competitive and free-market type of consumerism (Modell 2009).

International creditor institutions and donor agencies such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (Reddy 1997; Sharma 2009; Sharma and Lawrence 2009) have promoted new public management (NPM) reforms in developing countries (Ayeni 2002). The central features of NPM have been claimed to include a shift in emphasis from process accountability (input controls and bureaucratic procedures, rules, and standards) to accountability for results (quantifiable outcomes, measures, and performance targets). NPM also entailed the devolution of management control coupled with the development of improved reporting, monitoring, and accountability mechanisms

In Hoque, Z., ed. 2021. Public Sector Reform and Performance Management in Emerging Economies: Outcomes-Based Approaches in Practice. New York: Routledge (Chapter 10).

(Awio, Lawrence, and Northcotr 2007). The claimed benefits of reform include improvements in efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability in the public sector. Universally, the reforms were expected to engender greater public service responsiveness and increased choice of service providers (Olson, Guthrie, and Humphrey 1998). Fiji as a developing nation also experienced the nuances of the NPM, and as result, most public sector entities were restructured. The public sector statutory commercial entities assumed the form of public sector enterprises. The governance structures changed, with the emergence of the board of directors and chief executive officers. To foster accountability in the public sector, the government legislated the 1996 Public Sector Enterprises Act. In general, this Act required all public sector entities to promulgate a five- to ten-year corporate plan, outlining vision and mission statements. Congruent to these statements, the entities were required to state their target inputs, outputs, and outcomes with key performance indicators to measure both the output and the outcomes. The outcomes were specified in qualitative terms and were related to improvements in the socioeconomic well-being of the public.

In this chapter, we provide an overview and analyze the emergence of the outcome-based approach to public sector service delivery in Fiji. In our analysis, we explain the influences that led to outcome-based performance management in two of the public service delivery entities in Fiji—the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and the Fiji Audit Office.

In initial attempts to ease Fiji’s economic problems, the government undertook structural adjustment policies, such as public sector reform and deregulation. Following several coups in 1987, economic growth in Fiji declined by 6.4% and then stagnated in 1988. There were interruptions to the sugar harvest, and tourist arrivals dropped by 20% (Gounder 2001). Public sector organizations, in particular, faced institutional and economic pressures emanating from conditions set by donor agencies. One such condition was to run public enterprises as businesses (Nath, Van Peursem, and Lawrence 2011). When public enterprises are faced with economic problems, the government may call upon donor agencies for their assistance (Sharma and Lawrence 2005, 2009).


In order to provide a contextual understanding (Prasad and Raza 2002) of the impact of NPM, data were collected by undertaking a content analysis of publicly available archival documents. The sources were the Government of Fiji; Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services; and the Fiji Audit Office webpages, annual reports, corporate plans, and relevant acts and legislation. This provided us with rich descriptive textual data which we analyzed to find themes and patterns (Miles and Huberman 1994). In order to find specific kinds of meaning from the textual data, “the researcher poses questions to the text and vice versa” (Kvale 1996, 38). We, therefore, shaped our understanding of the outcome-focused performance approach; that is, governance with targets (Bevan and Hood 2006), being a reiteration of the Public Enterprise Act 2019 (Public Enterprise Act 2019) (Part 5 ss 22-29), requiring public sector entities to publish both their financial and non-financial outcomes as a principle of transparency.

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