The appeals to civil servants to innovate had gone unheard. The government has now decided to force senior civil servants to think out-of-the-box.
The cabinet secretariat has made it mandatory for every department covered under the performance monitoring and evaluation system to come up with action plan within the next one month powered with innovative ideas that can make a real difference.
But innovations don't come too easily to the civil services that has been trained on the job for decades to follow precedents, not rock the boat.
"It isn't that there are bright people in the government. But the system - and many seniors - have for far too long discouraged innovations," said a senior government official.
More than 70 departments headed by a secretary-rank officer have to draw up a results framework document (RFD) that lists the department's objectives for a particular year. The objectives are scrutinised by a panel of retired bureaucrats and independent experts who try to ensure that the targets aren't too easy to achieve.
In the medium term, the government hopes to link the performance of departments under this system to performance appraisal of bureaucrats and then, performance-linked incentives. This means civil servants who do not make grade on this evaluation system could lose out.
"As part of this effort and to make use of RFD as an instrument for promoting out-of-the-box thinking in the Government, the High Power Committee (HPC) on government performance chaired by the cabinet secretary included a mandatory success indicator relating to Innovation in all RFDs for 2012-2013," a background note sent to all departments recently said.
Over the next one month, they are required to prepare an action plan to enable innovation in their respective department that would be implemented from the coming financial year. A workshop has been organized on April 5 to guide the senior civil servants draw up the plan according to its guidelines.
The guidelines for the action plan try to plug loopholes that bureaucrats might use. The cabinet secretariat, for one, will not accept ideas that make incremental or one-time improvement.
"To qualify as innovation, the improvement in categories... should be 20% or more," the guidelines said.