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||Budget cuts compel Kawaguchi City to
set up new public management model
By Junji Koike, Nomura Research Institute
28 January 2007: Kawaguchi is located on the southern edge of Saitama Prefecture, separated from Tokyo only by the Arakawa River, thus making it a convenient location for those who commute to Tokyo for work or school. With a population of some 500,000 people, Kawaguchi is a bustling city and one of the major economic and cultural centers of Saitama Prefecture.
Although the population is increasing, the budget restrictions have been harsher in recent years due to the decline of the regional economy. As a result, Kawaguchi city has to streamline the administrative process in order to reduce the size of its budget. As a means of achieving public administration reforms, the New Public Management (NPM) model has been introduced since 2002.
As part of the process of NPM, Kawaguchi city has tried to adopt ‘Project Review Meeting’ in its ‘Plan-Do-See’ managerial cycle. Project Review Meetings are meetings held by a director in each department. The director calls the managers of the department and has a meeting in which they discuss the priority of projects. Normally Project Review Meetings are held twice. At the first meeting, the attendants argue the environmental analysis which this department are concerned with. For example, the member of the department of commerce will discuss the regional economy, employment situation, and particular development projects as part of the environmental analysis.
Under the understanding of the environment, then they discuss the projects they themselves are dealing with. They discuss each project from the aspect of its necessity, effectiveness, efficiency and possibility of outsourcing. In this discussion, they use the materials that explain the details of each project including its key performance figures. This first meeting is going on until the attendants finish discussing all the projects they have.
In the next Project Review Meeting, the attendants decide the order of priority, that is, which project they should proceed with first, or allocate more budget and human resources to. Using a project list and budget restriction the department should follow, they decide the priority of the projects. Some projects will be allocated increased resources, while other will have to do with less. It does happen that the officers decide to put on ice some low priority projects.
The result of Project Review Meeting is usually realized without change. Because of this, each department can influence the policy-making based on local input. At the same time, the department of planning and budgeting has a budget for the city’s strategic projects. The projects through Project Review Meeting are based on departmental views, so it might not be effective to solve holistic problems the city faces. This is why the department of planning and budgeting has its own budget in order to implement cross-sector policies.
Increase of reviewing projects makes Kawaguchi city plan to use Information Technology. In 2005, the city reviewed 139 projects. In 2006, however, the number of reviewing projects stood at 744, and this will increase further in 2007. At the Project Review Meeting, the attendants refer to the materials that contain information about the projects. The city is now trying to compile these materials into a database.
This database is called the Project Review System. Making use of the database, the attendants of the meeting can easily search for necessary information to discuss. For instance, an attendant can find projects its budget size is over 5,000.000 yen. The city is now planning to amend this system to use as a web-based database. Using the web-based database, officers can access to the database through their computers and find necessary information about a project. Each officer will be able to know how a project is progressing.
In future, Kawaguchi city may get residents involved in Project Review Meeting. Of course, the residents lack enough knowledge about projects. It would be difficult for the residents to evaluate a project. However, the residents will play a big role to cut the grants to certain organizations. The officers usually hesitate to reduce the budget for the grants to politically powerful organizations. The ordinary residents, however, don’t have a stake in such organizations, so they will be expected to cut the budget for such projects just following the public interest.
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