21-24 January 2013, The retreat was attended by all Cabinet Ministers led by the Hon Prime Minister, Chairperson of the Public Service Commission and Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the World Bank. The event consisted of a number of group discussions, plenary discussion and other events in which participants first considered how to improve the coordination of the machinery of public administration with a view to strengthening the links between vision, strategy, policy development and policy delivery.
Participants then turned to building a strong collaborative relationship between Ministers and CEOs, incorporating mutual trust, respect and loyalty.
In the final day of the retreat, the Hon Prime Minister announced that agreement in principle has been reached with the Commonwealth Secretariat to further the Tonga government take some important measures.
o First, the Commonwealth Secretariat will support us to improve the effectiveness of our officials by offering training in public administration targeted at the needs of small island states. The Commonwealth Secretariat will provide this training jointly with the government of Malta, another Commonwealth small island state with a real expertise to offer us tackle the problems our public service faces because of our smallness and limited capacities of our ministries;
o Second, they will find ways of assisting our government in its efforts to improve the effectiveness of Parliament, by offering training for MPs in rules and procedures of the House;
o Third, the Commonwealth Secretariat will enable us to explore ways to strengthen our institutions by providing us with guidance on how the problems we face in improving our public services are addressed by other small island states of similar size and level of development.
Strengthening of the Prime Minister’s Office was an issue of concern conveyed by CEOs and well accepted by the Ministers in order to provide efficient and effective support to the Prime Minster and the operation of the Cabinet.
Ministers were agreed to further develop the proposed administrative processes such as standardizing of Cabinet submission, development of tracking system of decision made in cabinet, development of forward look scheduling among other things. The Chief Secretary and Secretary to Cabinet, with the authority of the Prime Minister, will enforce compliance with the new process.
Strengthening the CEO Team
The CEO Forum will continue to provide a mechanism for CEOs to share information (for instance regarding the financial procedures) and coordinate the activities of their departments (including continuing to guide the restructuring process). The PSC will also arrange appropriate leadership training, mentoring (including by more experienced CEO colleagues), retreats and other collective activities.
Supporting Local Communities
There is to be a much greater emphasis (as far as possible within existing budget envelopes) on supporting local (and in particular rural) communities to help themselves. Activities will include extension services, outreach and community initiatives.