"An effective Centre of Government (CoG) is essential for steering policy development and implementation. It can help overcome ministerial and departmental stovepipes that thwart co-operation and create wasteful overlapping and duplication of policies and institutions.
A well-functioning CoG helps sustain a comprehensive long-term vision, manage risks and crises and ensure that reforms are widely agreed across Government and effectively implemented. It has a key role in communicating on reforms, securing support, and checking that reforms are implemented.
In Portugal, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers is the key central body under the authority of the Prime Minister that provides assistance to the Council of Ministers. But the central Government is relatively fragmented.
With some notable exceptions, including the Simplex programme for administrative simplification,22 the Presidency of the Council of Ministers has struggled to foster true co-operation across ministries, and line ministries have often been required by law to co-operate so as to implement horizontal programmes. This might stem in part from a tendency to work separately and, possibly, to perceive the Presidency as a controller or a whip rather than as a partner in developing and implementing public policies.
As a result of this “silo” Government, it is difficult for Ministries to interact with each other on shared issues, and for the CoG to promote a “whole of government” attitude. A committed team around the Prime Minister is currently steering policy development and implementation, in part overcoming these challenges and helping guide the Government’s response to the crisis. This is a welcome development, but as the Government moves from crisis-response to long-term policy-making, it will nonetheless be essential to strengthen the ability of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers to steer and foster co-operation across the Government on the structural reform agenda.
It will be especially important to institutionalise and enhance co-operation across ministries to facilitate the development of truly horizontal programmes that address cross-cutting issues such as education and competitiveness".