x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Abu Dhabi Government departments to be inspected

Evaluation programme designed to make them more accountable and transparent.

Mohammed al Bowardi, the secretary general of the Executive Council, says holding the Government up to examination is
Mohammed al Bowardi, the secretary general of the Executive Council, says holding the Government up to examination is "an important building block of our society and nation".

ABU DHABI // Every Abu Dhabi Government department is to participate in an evaluation programme designed to make them more accountable and transparent, it was announced yesterday. The Abu Dhabi Award for Excellence in Government Performance, now in its third year, sends inspectors to departments to analyse strengths and weaknesses. Last year 35 departments took part. This year, for the first time, all 44 will be evaluated, including government-owned companies.

The goal is to be among the top five governments in the world based on a system devised by the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM). Holding the Government up for examination is "an important building block of our society and nation", said Mohammed al Bowardi, secretary general of the Executive Council, which manages Abu Dhabi's economic, political and social development. "Our leadership has big ambitions," Mr al Bowardi said. "To achieve this ? there must be standards that we can measure ourselves against." The capital is currently ranked below average for the Middle East, although its EFQM score improved by 26 per cent between 2007 and 2009. Participation in the Abu Dhabi Award has doubled since its inception in 2007, when only 22 departments were involved. Abu Dhabi wants to be ranked alongside top performers and Europe, but must nearly double its current score against a rigorous set of standards. It will grade its departments on environmental and social responsibility, their ability to serve efficiently, leadership qualities of managers, and forming relationships with NGOs and academic institutions. The evaluation will place greater emphasis on transparency, a key element of Mr al Bowardi's agenda. In 2008 he instructed government institutions in the capital to devise strategic plans over periods ranging from three to five years. At their heart, the awards involve simply improving the work of public-sector employees and making dealing with the Government simpler and more efficient, said Khalifa al Mansoori, the awards' director. After evaluations in January and February, the award for best department will be decided in March, and full reports will be presented to departments in April, allowing them to identify shortcomings. Scores in the reports depend on the reputation and image of the government body, the quality of its services, the number of complaints and compliments by customers and engagement with the public, as well as its treatment of its own employees. Those results will then be plugged into the formula devised by EFQM, a Belgian non-profit organisation with 600 member groups. Mr al Mansoori said annual budgets or bonuses granted to department heads would not be tied to performance. "The Government is different from the private sector," he said. Winning an award is considered a prestigious accomplishment. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, presents the awards. Mr al Mansoori said the benefits of improving performance would be evident in that everyone who dealt with the government should find it a more pleasant process. Mohamed al Hosani, the director of regional development at the Western Region Development Council, said the effects should be apparent in "better service, better treatment and more involvement". "It feels like they have a voice, with complaints and feedback that is heard," Mr al Hosani said. He said performance metrics would provide a "mirror" that allows the government to evaluate itself. He also said he favoured linking incentives such as budget and bonuses to performance. The project is a necessary part of the capital's attempt at "complete and sustainable development", Mr al Bowardi said. Improving governance would lead to "society's prosperity and the elevation of government services to world-class levels", he added. kshaheen@thenational.ae