Malaysia's Experience with PEMANDU Offers Lessons Worldwide

May 9, 2017


World Bank Report Outlines Key Success Factors, Challenges, and Lessons Learned 
in Strengthening Public Sector Management

Malaysia’s experience in driving public sector performance through a delivery unit serves as a useful case study for governments around the world, according to a new World Bank report.

The inaugural Knowledge and Research Report Driving Performance from the Center: Malaysia’s Experience with PEMANDU outlines the successes and challenges of the Performance Management and Delivery Unit, known as PEMANDU, as well as the country’s overall approach to performance management.

Since its inception in 2009, PEMANDU, a unit within the Prime Minister’s office, became one of the world’s most prominent delivery units. Many countries look to learn from its experience.

“When PEMANDU started, we were given the assurance by the Prime Minister in 2009 that the government is altogether committed in the pursuit of sustainable and inclusive socioeconomic transformation. That commitment proved to be catalytic and is firmly established in the National Transformation Program (NTP),” said Dato’ Sri Idris Jala, PEMANDU CEO.

“Countries worldwide struggle with how to provide services—education, health, water, electricity, transport, telecom—to their people effectively and affordably,” said Ulrich Zachau, World Bank Country Director for South East Asia. “This report distills lessons from Malaysia's strong record and experience in improving public sector management that can be useful throughout the region and beyond.”

According to the report, PEMANDU’s effectiveness in driving performance stems from its design features and methodology, as well as how the unit works with service delivery agencies and outside stakeholders. For example, “Labs” – a signature PEMANDU innovation – broadened ownership of the NTP among a wide variety of stakeholders. Through rigorous monitoring and reporting of key performance indicators (KPIs), incentives to deliver results were created at all levels. PEMANDU also attracted top talent from the private sector, which infused the public sector with innovation and drive.

The report also notes that PEMANDU’s biggest challenges are a flip side of its greatest strengths. For example, designing the NTP through labs may have missed some important technical elements of project design, such as building in the structure for impact evaluation that would attribute results to the NTP instead of other efforts. Similarly, while KPIs can drive a performance culture in government, they are limited by the quality of the indicators and the data.

“Because tradeoffs are inherent in its design features, PEMANDU’s experience is important in presenting both successes and challenges. Finding the right balance is key,” said Jana Kunicova, World Bank Senior Public Sector Specialist and leader of the report team.

Knowledge and Research reports are flagship publications of the Malaysia Hub. This report is part of the Malaysia Development Experience Series, which strives to capture key learnings from Malaysia that are relevant for developing countries around the globe as they transition out of poverty and into shared prosperity. The report is available for download here.

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