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kiribati map     Kiribati flag


Kiribati comprises 33 atolls and the phosphate island of Banaba. The atolls straddle the equator in the mid-Pacific ocean and form three groups – the Gilbert, Phoenix and Line Islands. Kiribati is spread out over 3.5 million square kilometres of ocean. Its population is approximately 107,000. Tarawa is the capital, and the most populous atoll. The majority of the remaining population live in the Gilbert Islands. The Phoenix Islands are uninhabited. Kiribati is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and rising sea levels, with an average elevation of less than two metres above sea level.

Under the Constitution, the power to make appointments to public offices is vested in the Beretitenti (President), acting in accordance with the advice of the Public Service Commission (PSC).  In practice this power is delegated to the PSC.  The primary legislation guiding governance is the Public Service Commission (Functions) Act 1983 and the Public Finance (Control and Audit) Act 1981.

The Kiribati public sector is generally characterized by (i) limited human resource base, (ii) absence of modern human resource management systems and (iii) limited outreach beyond the major urban centres.  The result is low productivity, and dependence on a select few public servants.

There have been a number of attempts to reform the public sector.  In 1996 a program of ‘rightsizing’ was undertaken with a review of positions and conditions of service across government.  With limited results arising from this program, the National Development Strategy, 2000-2003 also focused on public service reform to create the ‘enabling environment needed to stimulate growth and private sector development.  In both cases the absence of an active private sector stymied efforts to introduce public management reforms involving privatization and contracting.

Responsibility for public service recruitment and management is shared between the Public Service Office (charged with human resource management, planning and development), the Public Service Commission (approves public service appointments and monitors discipline) and individual line ministries (responsibilities for recruitment, promotions, discipline and removal of public servants.) The division of responsibility is not always clear in practice and can cause bottlenecks in the recruitment process.

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