Ministries are the overarching bodies that house relevant government bodies such as departments and authorities in charge of a particular subject area. They are responsible for the formulation and approval of national level policies and strategies in their assigned sectors (such as health, education, and agriculture), coordinating the institutions under their purview to implement the approved policies and strategies, and monitoring and evaluating their performance. Therefore, ministries—and by extension ministers—are vital to determining the institutional effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery by the public sector.
However, public sentiment suggests otherwise. Public sector efficiency, or the lack thereof, has been a long-standing issue that successive governments in Sri Lanka have failed to address effectively. The general perception of the public is that the elected representatives who run government make an already inefficient system worse, and this perception is becoming more entrenched with time.
The present paper seeks to address this gap between the expectations of the role of ministers and ministries as set out in the Constitution, and the reality as experienced and perceived by society. It highlights two types of problems that prevent the Cabinet of Ministers from being able to fully realise their mandate and ensure effective and efficient governance in the public sector.