Dargužaitė’s aims – lower governance costs and staffing reduction

Milda Dargužaitė
DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

Another goal is to reduce the number of employees,” new cabinet chancellor Milda Dargužaitė said in the programme Dėmesio Centre on LRT TV.

– Ms. Dargužaitė, it is not the work you have done that made you known to the public, but the circumstances that led to you departing your prior workplace, when with the Social Democrats entering power you were forced to leave the leading post of Investuok Lietuvoje (Invest Lithuania), despite being viewed very positively by the business community. What tempted you this time?

I would say it is the same thing which motivated me to work at Investuok Lietuvoje – the wish to change the public sector. We can see vast inefficiency in the sector and I believe that it can be changed. In my opinion this definitely depends on the competence of those employed in the public sector. I believe that the post of chancellor opens up many opportunities to show how many issues can be resolved, ones that no-one has taken up resolving before or tried, but failed.

– For a time you worked as the head of the Barclays bank bureau in Lithuania. Recently you worked as a member of management at an investment fund. What happened with Barclays? Why did you leave?

I am personally always most interested in working there where I can make changes. Going to work there I was specifically hoping I could do so, but during the time I worked at Barclays there was much restructuring, changes of leadership and I saw that there was no point to work there just to have a job, but not be able to make the changes I wanted to.

– How are you related to Saulius Skvernelis and the Peasants? That’s the main question.

I believe that while forming his team, the current Prime Minister is seeking individuals who would, in his opinion, be able to perform quality work. I got to know the PM only recently. His advisors are from Kurk Lietuvai (Create for Lithuania). He, it would appear, is acquainted with what I have been doing in Lithuania and also heard many recommendations from the people I have worked with. Thus he contacted me.

– You know you were recommended by his advisors?

I believe he knew of me himself, at least publically. But perhaps he checked the recommendations of the people who had worked with me.

– Were you surprised?

A little, of course.

– What surprised you? Was it that at least in the public sphere you have so far been clearly associated with the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, at least Andrius Kubilius, but now suddenly – the Peasant Greens and S. Skvernelis?

I have come to believe that the current PM is talking about a government of professionals. That he contacted me was a sign to me that they are seriously prepared to get to work and not seek people who would necessarily hold the same beliefs or such. I even see an advantage in it.

– You say “not necessarily hold the same beliefs”. Am I correct to understand that you don’t find certain, how do you say, values acceptable?

Of course, I have my own beliefs. But in this job it will not matter. I do not belong to any party. What I am interested in is what I can do for my country. Specifically raising efficiency, making changes. That is what appears most important to me.

– Making change is a very ambiguous expression, but it is best to judge people based on their actions and work. Here are the decisions of the majority, which you have become a part of, that were made recently – opposing a world famous artificial insemination method, changes to the excise law that benefit vodka distillers and go against beer brewers, chaotic and definitely not consistent taxation changes, which are being done in Seimas. All of this probably does not reflect how you imagine government working?

If we look at how many pieces of legislation were passed in Lithuania last year, we are first in Europe. Over 400 laws and amendments. This shows that legislation prepared in Lithuania is of low quality, hence it receives amendment after amendment. Time is not invested into serious analysis, including different groups. I believe that we will set such standards from the chancellery. This is one of the spheres we have talked about with the PM and it is a priority for him.

– You only half answered my question. Did you speak with the PM about what is going on in the parliament right now? How will the cabinet react to events in parliament?

The cabinet has been working for only a few days. I believe that from now on the cabinet will definitely be taking the initiative, firstly by preparing a list of plans to implement the programme. I believe that it is only a question of time, when the cabinet will start to firmly operate.

– Have you read the work description of the cabinet chancellor?

I have.

– What impression did it leave?

Firstly it is a person who supports the work of the cabinet. However I accepted this role with the condition that the post be expanded. This is what the Prime Minister invited me for – to make big changes in state governance and of course to ensure efficient and smooth operation.

– I would like to quote one of the chancellor’s functions – protects the seal of government. Who is protecting it as we speak?

It is currently in a safe. I have just signed that I am taking responsibility for it.

– The chancellor can be an influential position. This could be a sort of vice Prime Minister level political figure, could also be a bureaucrat formalist. What are your plans?

I definitely would not have taken this position had it just been for maintaining the bureaucracy. I am definitely not the most suitable person for that. I am entering from outside in order to make changes. One of the chancellery’s tasks is to sustain these processes, but my own main focus will be on making changes.

– You’ve used the word “change” many times. It is a beautiful word, but we have yet to hear content. Could you briefly describe how you perceive your mission in this role? What changes could lead us to believe that I, Milda Dargužaitė have done well in the chancellery?

Firstly – reforming the chancellery itself and changing its structure. The most important reforms we have in mind are increasing the effectiveness of institutions, the review of work processes and the implementation of the Lean system into the state sector.

– One of your main ambitions is to implement the Lean efficiency measurement system into the state sector?

Yes. And doing this it will be easier to understand what functions are superfluous or doubled, where we can lower staff counts without reducing the efficiency of the government apparatus. We are also thinking about modernising state governance. The chancellery will take responsibility for being an open government. All data will be publically available, all analyses, all results. I would say these are the main goals.

– Are you setting a goal to reduce governance expenses by a certain percentage throughout your term?

Definitely so. Just for now I cannot specify a number. It will take a few weeks for me to review where and how those costs could be reduced. But I will definitely seek cost and staff number reductions.

– Most likely every third person will fall off their chair after seeing how much activity just implementing the Lean system will provide.

If they fall off their chair because they cannot cope, then so be it. One of the goals is to reduce staff numbers. What that number will be, we shall see. We need to calculate and evaluate. On the other hand everyone talks that wages in the state sector, particularly for better specialists, are definitely small. It is difficult to attract professionals this way. Thus by reducing staff count we can save funds for higher competence.

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