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Does Effective Communication Improve Performance of Public Sector? Perspectives from Selected Local Governments in Eastern Uganda

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ABSTRACT

Uganda adopted decentralization in 1997 with the aim of bringing services nearer to communities. Central government continues to provide resources to local governments; however, some communities still experience inadequate service delivery and poor-quality services in construction works, health, education and roads. This article examines the relationship between effective communication (information sharing, cohesion and succession) and the performance of selected Local Governments in Eastern Uganda. Three local governments (Jinja, Tororo and Soroti) were purposively sampled. Using a cross-sectional design, a sample of 313 respondents comprising both political and technical personnel was selected from sub-county and district levels, yielding a response rate of 85.6%. Both quantitative and qualitative data was collected using a self-administered questionnaire and key informant interview guide respectively. Data analysis involved descriptive statistics, correlation, regression and content analysis. Findings revealed that effective communication is essential in building cohesive and effective teams as well as minimizing misunderstandings in local governments. The study concludes that effective communication plays a role in local governments by enabling management to motivate subordinates and improve performance. It recommends local governments to ensure cohesion exists within teams and among the relevant departments, to be open in succession process. This makes employees perform their jobs better, which leads to improved service delivery and provision of quality services.

Keywords: Effective Communication, Local Governments, Performance, Service Delivery, Quality Services, Eastern Uganda

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Does Effective Communication Improve Performance of Public Sector? Perspectives from Selected Local Governments in Eastern Uganda

  1. 1. Triple A Research Journal of Social Science and Humanity (JSSH) | Vol.2 No.2 | July 2018 Triple A Research Journal of Social Science and Humanity (ISSN: 2636-5472) Vol.2(2): 060 - 066, July 2018 Available online: http://www.triplearesjournal.org/jssh Copyright ©2018 Triple A Research Journal Full Length Research Paper Does Effective Communication Improve Performance of Public Sector? Perspectives from Selected Local Governments in Eastern Uganda Wilfred Kokas Aupal Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST)/Uganda Technology and Management University (UTAMU) C/O Makerere University/Regional Centre for Quality of Health Care (RCQHC), P.O Box 29140, Kampala, Uganda Author: Wilfred Kokas Aupal Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST)/Uganda Technology and Management University (UTAMU) Email address: kwaupal@yahoo.com; 2014phd040@stud.must.ac.ug ABSTRACT Uganda adopted decentralization in 1997 with the aim of bringing services nearer to communities. Central government continues to provide resources to local governments; however, some communities still experience inadequate service delivery and poor-quality services in construction works, health, education and roads. This article examines the relationship between effective communication (information sharing, cohesion and succession) and the performance of selected Local Governments in Eastern Uganda. Three local governments (Jinja, Tororo and Soroti) were purposively sampled. Using a cross-sectional design, a sample of 313 respondents comprising both political and technical personnel was selected from sub-county and district levels, yielding a response rate of 85.6%. Both quantitative and qualitative data was collected using a self- administered questionnaire and key informant interview guide respectively. Data analysis involved descriptive statistics, correlation, regression and content analysis. Findings revealed that effective communication is essential in building cohesive and effective teams as well as minimizing misunderstandings in local governments. The study concludes that effective communication plays a role in local governments by enabling management to motivate subordinates and improve performance. It recommends local governments to ensure cohesion exists within teams and among the relevant departments, to be open in succession process. This makes employees perform their jobs better, which leads to improved service delivery and provision of quality services. Keywords: Effective Communication, Local Governments, Performance, Service Delivery, Quality Services, Eastern Uganda. INTRODUCTION Among the cardinal democratic principles enshrined in the Ugandan constitution of 1995 and Local Government Act of 1997 is legalized decentralization and evolution of government functions and powers to the people at appropriate levels where they can best manage and direct their own affairs (Government of Uganda [GoU], 2006:22 and GoU, 2010). Uganda adopted decentralization with the aim of bringing services nearer to the people (Saito, 2001 in Galukande-Kiganda and Mzini, 2016:95). Central government continues to provide resources to local governments; yet some communities still experience inadequate service delivery and poor-quality services in
  2. 2. Triple A Research Journal of Social Science and Humanity (JSSH) | Vol.2 No.2 | July 2018 061 Triple A Res. J. Soc. Sci. Human. terms of construction work, health, education and roads network (Awortwi and Helmsing, 2014:782). Effective communication (information sharing, cohesion and succession) is a systematic way of using appropriate media to build relationships, listen contextualize and exercise humility. It is ensuring that the right message from the sender reaches the intended receiver and the sender gets the right feedback. During change, effective communication is recognized in organization as it builds cohesive and effective teams (Fatman, 2014:72), Fatman further notes that organizational performance can be improved if communication is integrated in its change management practices. Effective communication is necessary at individual level and teams to ensure that tasks from supervisors are properly understood (Dunmore, 2014). Succession construct in this article is used to mean an individual who is employed within the local government and promoted into a new position of ultimate authority (Santora, Clemens and Sarros, 1992 in Santora et al, 2015:71). Cohesion construct refers to a degree to which an individual feels a sense of belonging to a particular group and his/her feelings and values are closely related to other members of the group (Chen, Tang and Wang, 2009 in Abubakar Sheer, 2013:5). The selected local governments in Eastern Uganda include: Jinja, Tororo and Soroti districts. Effective communication focused on the constructs of information sharing, cohesion and succession. Performance is measured by delivery of services and quality services to the communities. The measures of performance in this article try to answer the question as to whether the local governments in Uganda are fulfilling the purpose of decentralization which was to bring services nearer to the people (Green, 2015:11). This article was motivated by the fact that local governments play a critical role in the provision of public goods and services to the communities; hence the findings and recommendations are expected to reform public sector (Kuye, 2014:178). The article is therefore focused on establishing whether effective communication leads to improved performance of selected local governments in Eastern Uganda in terms of service delivery and quality of services. In order to establish whether there is a relationship between effective communication and performance of selected Local Governments in Eastern Uganda, the research was guided by the hypothesis that: “there is a relationship between effective communication and performance of selected Local Governments in Eastern Uganda”. LITERATURE REVIEW Oakland and Aldridge (1995:32) noted that the strategy, changes and culture that are established within an institution should be effectively communicated clearly and directly from top management to all employees and customers so that they can adjust in accordance with organizational change. Irrespective of the organization’s size and nature, if performance is to be realized, effective communication needs to be introduced on the onset. Gordon (2006) argued that effective communication is the context within which change occurs. Effective communication renders success to the organization in the areas of team work, internal management, planning, marketing, accounts department and external stakeholders; and many problems exist in the organization as a result of poor communication (Wertheim, 2008:1). Leonard, Graham, and Bonacum (2004:86) argued from the health perspective and pointed out that effective communication leads to delivery of high quality, safe patient care. Additionally, the study findings by Heisler et al (2002:243) indicated that effective communication was critical in self-management activities. Watson (2012:2) noted that, other than on the overall organization level perspective, at individual level those employees who communicate effectively outperform their colleagues in the organization or same industry, and effective communication aligns an organization from top to bottom and also motivates staff. Human relation approach used by Ortega, Cabrera and Cabrera (2001:3) underpins the importance of effective communication between employees and their superiors through sharing of tasks and activities to be performed. There are no permanent employees in organizations; people leave under any circumstances and they need to be replaced or succeeded. Succession should not be planned in secret. It is important for the organization and individuals to know that the leadership team is undertaking succession planning; and much as the individual employee cannot be told exactly what management intends, there should be adequate communication in building the employee’s skills in preparation for the challenging roles and life ahead (Olumuyiwa and Oluwatosin, 2012:32). Effective communication is important for the development of an organization and helps the managers to perform the basic functions of management some of which include; Planning, Organizing, Motivating and Controlling (Shama, 2013 in Fakinlede et al., 2014:37). Muesenze et al (2014:93) carried out research on, ‘Communication Practices and Quality Service Delivery Tradition: Uganda’s Local Government Perspective’. Taking a sample of 212 local governments in Uganda, the study examined the relationship between communication practices (formal and informal) and quality service delivery in Uganda’s local governments. The findings revealed that both formal and informal communication practices positively and significantly predicted quality service delivery in Uganda’s local governments. The significant role of both formal and informal communication practices on quality service delivery in Uganda’s local governments was evident. Mugisha and Berg (2008:305) undertook a study of state-owned enterprises with specific focus on the turnaround of National Water and Sewerage Corporation
  3. 3. Triple A Research Journal of Social Science and Humanity (JSSH) | Vol.2 No.2 | July 2018 Wilfred KA 062 Table 1: Rotated Component Matrix - Effective Communication Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin Measure of Sampling Adequacy. .740 Bartlett's Test of Sphericity Approx. Chi-Square 944.567 df 105 Sig. .000 Source: Primary data (2017) (NWSC) in Uganda. This study underpins the importance of effective communication in improving organizational performance. In order to improve its organizational performance, NWSC established effective lines of communication. It was realized that the formal communication complements informal meetings and other information exchanges, enabling utility managers to access a menu of performance improvement strategies. It also enables managers from headquarters to share ideas with branch managers, which leads to improved performance. In the same way, complaints can also be captured through telephone communication between the customer/public and the utility staff. Andrews and Batageka (2013:20) undertook a study on, “Overcoming the limits of institutional reform in Uganda”. Lack of effective communication was regarded as one of the limiting factors to Uganda’s institutional reforms. The reform will be successful if the problem is effectively communicated and as a result, the stakeholders can be analyzed and the reformers to clarify whose support they actively need and whose potential resistance they need to manage. Effective communication is therefore an important factor which holds the organization in one piece and shapes its direction. METHODOLOGY This study used a cross-sectional research design where outcomes were observed and measured simultaneously in a population (American Dietetic Association, 2011). Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used because they supplement each other, and qualitative information corroborates quantitative data. Cross-sectional design is appropriate for collecting data from a sample of respondents at one point in time, and it allows the collection of both quantitative and qualitative data as open- ended questions can be included in the research tools (Graber, 2004:45). The quantitative methods collected numerical data which was manipulated using descriptive statistics, correlations, regressions and coefficient of determinations which was used to test the hypothesis (Amin, 2005). Content analysis was used to analyze quantitative data, and this informed more discussion to corroborate quantitative findings. The study was carried out in three districts of Eastern Uganda (Jinja, Tororo and Soroti) and the respondents included technical staff at the district and sub county level and the district (LCV) councilors who represented the politicians. Key Informants who provided qualitative data were purposively selected. The quantitative method targeted a population comprising 360 members and a sample size of 313 was determined using statistical tables of Krejcie and Morgan (1970:610) which yielded a response rate of 85.6%, while the qualitative method had a response rate of 62.5%. Analysis of quantitative data was done using descriptive statistics viz: percentages, standard deviation and the mean. Factor analysis was used to test the measurement items and those which passed the test were arranged into a smaller set so as to facilitate and make interpretation easier. The factor loadings in the rotated matrix indicated that the conditions of discriminant and convergent validity were reasonably satisfied by the data; this was so because different items loaded well in their respective contracts and also discriminated well across other contracts (Habiyaremye, Ayebale and Wayama, 2016:8). The KMO and Bartlett's Test of Sphericity (table 1) was used to test the appropriateness of the factor analysis. Lastly, correlation analysis was used to establish the relationship of the variables, while regression analysis was used to determine the influence of effective communication on the performance of selected local governments in Eastern Uganda. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION The study was purposely carried out to assess the relationship between effective communication and performance of selected local governments in Eastern Uganda. The quantitative information was generated using a self-administered questionnaire which adopted a five- point Likert scale which included: 1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Neither Disagree nor Agree, 4 = Agree and 5 = Strongly Agree, which represents ordinal responses (Sullivan 2013:542). A five-point Likert scale was put at interval level and distributed at scale ranges, which was then interpreted with the mean as: 1.00-1.80 = Strongly Disagree, 1.81-2.60 = Disagree, 2.61-3.40 = Neither Disagree nor Agree, 3.41-4.20 = Agree and 4.21-5.00 = Strongly Agree (Jamieson, 2004:1218; Okay & Semiz, 2010:2924). From the 38 measurement items, using the Mean for statistical interpretation, 6 items showed disagree, 13 items
  4. 4. Triple A Research Journal of Social Science and Humanity (JSSH) | Vol.2 No.2 | July 2018 063 Triple A Res. J. Soc. Sci. Human. Table 2: KMO and Bartlett's Test Scale and measurement items Components 1 2 3 1. Cohesion Most of the information I receive on daily basis is detailed and accurate .787 Most of the information I receive from my supervisor is detailed and accurate .803 Most of the information I receive from my co-workers detailed and accurate .758 Most of the information I receive from other departments is detailed and accurate .720 Most of the information I receive from top management is detailed and accurate .682 My co-workers often receive reliable information from our supervisor .603 2. Sharing Information It is difficult to get important information in my work place (R) .647 Other departments give my department biased information with the intention of failing my department (R) .705 I rarely talk when my supervisor is in the meeting (R) .622 Information in my workplace is controlled by few people (R) .706 Rumor is mostly my source of information in my department .690 3. Succession The channels of communication in this organization are open .657 My department and the district have formal channels for information sharing .701 My departments share information freely through meetings and other communication channels .730 Top management shares information to lower level employees .687 Eigen Value 3.23 2.48 2.12 Percent of variance explained 21.55 16.52 14.16 Cumulative percent of variance explained 21.55 38.07 52.24 Extraction Method: Principal Component Analysis. Rotation Method: Varimax with Kaiser Normalization. Rotation converged in 5 iterations. High factor loadings for respective constructs are indicated in bold. The items with “R” parentheses were reverse coded before analysis Source: Primary data (2017) showed Neither Disagree nor Agree and 19 items showed Agree. It therefore implied that effective communication had an impact in the performance of selected local governments. An earlier study about the importance of communication in management by Fatma (2014:72) also found that effective communication is essential in building a cohesive and effective team as well as removing misunderstandings. This finding agrees with the current study in local governments. When asked about the importance of communication, one of the respondents said: “Yes, communication is very important because in the absence of communication, a lot of suspicion comes up and also in the absence of communication, people start peddling rumors and they are not sure of what they are saying…….You know information is important and information can only be passed through effective communication”. The initial total of 38 measurement items were in the questionnaire and included in the descriptive statistics, 23 measurement items were deleted during the factor analysis (table 2) because they did not comply with Guttman-Kiesier rule which states that one should retain at most those factors associated with eiginvalues > 1, and these factors should have factor loadings of at least 0.5 as rule of thumb (Guttman, 1954 in Warne; Larsen, 2014:106; Kaiser, 1960:145; Peeters, Dziura and Wesel, 2014:4; Afthanorhan, 2013:200). It is also interesting to note that of the 23 measurement items deleted, 8 were those which had the “Neither Agree or Disagree” response. This confirms Yong and Pearce’s (2013:93) argument that factor analysis is used to reduce variables into a smaller set so as to facilitate and make interpretation easier. The results of correlation analysis (table 3) showed a positive relationship between effective communication and performance of selected local governments in Eastern Uganda. This was explained by the positive relationship (Pearson Correlation Coefficient) at r = 0.318 that was statistically significant at 99% level of confidence as p = 0.000 is p < .01. It is also worth noting that out of the three constructs of the effective communication variable in the study only two namely, cohesion (r = 0.290, p < 0.01) and succession (r = 0.396, p < 0.01) had significant positive relationship with performance of selected local governments in Eastern Uganda, while information sharing had insignificant negative relationship with performance (r = -0.098, p < 0.01). Therefore, the hypothesis that: “there is
  5. 5. Triple A Research Journal of Social Science and Humanity (JSSH) | Vol.2 No.2 | July 2018 Wilfred KA 064 Table 3: Correlation Analysis Table Variables Mean Std. Deviation 1 1.1 1.2 2 2.1 2.2 2.3 1. Performance 3.58 0.70 1 1.1 Quality Services 3.65 0.84 .860** 1 1.2 Service Delivery 3.52 0.80 .841** .447** 1 2. Effective Communication 3.18 0.40 .318** .251** .291** 1 2.1 Cohesion 3.29 0.62 .290** .189** .307** .405** 1 2.2 Information Sharing 2.43 0.78 -.098 -.081 -.086 -.242** -.324** 1 2.3 Succession 3.82 0.70 .396** .352** .321** .435** .430** .337** 1 **. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed). *. Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed). N=268 Source: Primary data (2017) a relationship between effective communication and performance of selected local governments in Eastern Uganda” was accepted. This means that effective communication leads to improved performance, hence answering the question in title of this article that, “Does Effective Communication Improve Performance of Public Sector?” The correlation results also imply that if the local governments strengthened cohesion and succession, there would be improved performance of selected local governments in Eastern Uganda. Furthermore, the correlation results showed that the construct of “information sharing” has no influence on performance since it had insignificant negative correlation coefficient, r = -0.098. Nonetheless, the combined correlation coefficient, r = 0.318, p = 0.000 of the independent variable showed a strong positive relationship. This finding confirms what Chand (2011:8) alluded to when he asserted that the attainment of organizational goals and objectives can easily be achieved with effective communication and organizations cannot exist without communication. One of the respondents who emphasized the need for effective communication, and equated it to the survival of the family, had this to say: “haaa, there are things that need technical monitoring. because for me as person, if have seen that a person is there, I cannot know whether he/she is working or not, it is now the people to tell us that these people are here, and they are working providing services in the community. This still needs communication, and without communication there is nothing you can achieve even in your own house you cannot achieve anything, if your wife does not talk to you and the children to not communicate, what will you achieve?, it is like your house is broken, so communication is key and leads to improved service delivery”. The correlation analysis further showed a significant positive relationship between effective communication and service delivery of selected local governments in Eastern Uganda. The correlation results were indicated by r = 0.291 that was statistically significant at 99% level of confidence as p = 0.000 is p < 0.01. This finding agrees with Baines and Lightfoot (2013:10) who observed that effective communication skills are required for the frontline staff to improve service delivery. Andersen, Davidson and Baumeister (2014:54), and Cameron et al (2014:16) added that effective communication can best be used to measure the extent of services delivered to the community. When asked whether service delivery had improved in the local government, one of the respondents said: “…generally, service delivery and the quality of service has improved because the level of demand now getting higher and people… The financial resource, the budget towards local government is very small, about 13%, very small out of the national budget and what comes to the district is a peanut and yet services are supposed to be delivered. I think there is lack of prioritization by the government to deliberately empower the communities and to get out of their situation”. Similarly, the correlation analysis results revealed that effective communication leads to improved quality service which is one of the measures of performance as indicated by r = 0.251 that was statistically significant at 99% level of confidence as p = 0.000 is p < .01. This finding agrees with Jacobs, Yu and Chavez (2016:60) who noted that effective communication and satisfied employees lead to improved performance and service quality in organizations. These findings further agree with one the respondents who said: “…we have the standards that we are supposed to meet in terms of quality services and these are the guide lines for implementation of any government program through communication…you find that in the process of implementation, it is just the human beings who are implementing compromise the quality. Otherwise we have the quality service guidelines and we know what to do, but it is just human selfishness that compromise quality”.
  6. 6. Triple A Research Journal of Social Science and Humanity (JSSH) | Vol.2 No.2 | July 2018 065 Triple A Res. J. Soc. Sci. Human. Table 4: Regression Model Summary Model R R Square Adjusted R Square Std. Error of the Estimate 1 .445a .198 .189 .62852 a. Predictors: (Constant), Succession, Cohesion, Information Sharing Source: Primary data (2017) Table 5: ANOVA testing the influence of Effective Communication on Performance of selected local governments Model Sum of Squares df Mean Square F Sig. 1 Regression 25.787 3 8.596 21.759 .000b Residual 104.290 264 .395 Total 130.077 267 a. Dependent Variable: Performance b. Predictors: (Constant), Information Sharing, Cohesion, Succession, Source: Primary data (2017) As pointed out by Wertheim (2008:1), effective communication renders success to the organization in the areas of teamwork, internal management, planning, marketing, accounts department and external stakeholders and many problems in the organization are because of poor communication. This was affirmed by one of the key informants when asked whether there was any importance of effective communication in the districts. The respondent attributed it as a way of accountability by saying: “really it is very helpful for achieving performance because, people are accounting for their where about, if I tell you that I am going to the field and… I am not actually in the field; I will not be able to send pictures from my phone indicating where I am. If I am in the field and I told you that I am in some school that is accountability enough to know that I am in the field”. A regression analysis (table 4) was carried out to determine the extent to which effective communication explains the variations in performance of selected local governments. The regression model indicated adjusted R2 = 0.189 and p – value = 0.000 which is below p < 0.05. This means that effective communication has significant positive influence on performance of selected local governments. The model further indicates that, other factors remaining constant, 18.9% of performance in local governments is explained by effective communication. This therefore means that effective communication is an important factor in predicting performance of selected local governments. Similarly, increase or decrease of effective communication affects performance of selected local governments in Eastern Uganda. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) in table 5 showed that the model is significant (p < 0.01), which means that it is a good predictor. This implies that effective communication has a positive and significant influence and leads to improved performance of selected local governments. The analysis further shows F value (F = 21.79, P = 0.000) is greater than the F-critical = 4.874, implying that the model is significant and therefore good for prediction. The significance of the F statistic reveals that constructs of executive support significantly predict performance of selected local governments. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION Overall, both the quantitative and qualitative findings point to the fact that there is significant relationship between effective communication and performance of selected local governments in Eastern Uganda. In other words, effective communication leads to improved performance of selected local governments in Eastern Uganda. The hypothesis that: “there is a relationship between effective communication and performance of selected Local Governments in Eastern Uganda” was accepted. However, among the constructs of effective communication (information sharing, cohesion and succession), information sharing had insignificant negative correlation coefficient of r = -0.098, meaning that if information sharing is increased in local government, performance decreases. This could be secret information kept by executives which comes from central government which is harmful to employee performance such as staff welfare, issues on salary increase and motivation. It would not be necessary for local governments to put more emphasis on information sharing as it negatively impacts on performance. From the findings, cohesion and succession lead to improved service delivery and improved quality of services. It therefore follows that local governments need to invest more on teams, work groups, openness regarding promotion of employees and assignment of roles and
  7. 7. Triple A Research Journal of Social Science and Humanity (JSSH) | Vol.2 No.2 | July 2018 Wilfred KA 066 tasks. It is worthy to note that this article looks at only effective communication and the performance of public sector with perspectives from local governments and hence undertook simple correlatation and simple regression analysis to arrive at the findings. I therefore recommend the addition of other variables like executive support and employee involvement so that hierarchical regression can be carried out to establish key predictors for performance of local governments in Eastern Uganda The qualitative findings also indicate that the budget allocated to local governments is very small (about 13%of the total national budget); what comes to the district is peanuts, yet services are supposed to be delivered. 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