x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Pledge on government performance

Government departments sign agreements binding them to meet their strategic targets and enhance public services.

ABU DHABI // Government departments in the emirate yesterday signed agreements binding them to meet their strategic targets and enhance public services. The performance agreements, signed by 29 department heads in the presence of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, are viewed as part of the emirate's drive to promote transparency in its official institutions.

"Developing the performance of government departments ... is a strategic objective of the Government of Abu Dhabi," said Sheikh Mohammed, who chairs the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, which manages the capital's political, economic and social development. Under the agreements, departments are required to hand quarterly progress reports to the performance and evaluation division. Each individual department is required to report on the process of achieving specific key performance indicators (KPIs) - metrics used to help organisations measure progress toward their goals.

Mohammed al Bowardi, the Executive Council's Secretary General, said yesterday the yearly agreements were aimed at "achieving Abu Dhabi Government's goals", which include promoting transparency. They were also aimed, he said, at "upgrading the level of services and speeding up capacity building". Officials insist the agreements are not meant to punish civil servants if they fail to meet their goals. Instead, they say, they are about building the culture of performance-driven organisations.

But Mr al Bowardi said yesterday the agreements would be linked at a later stage to "the financial system, annual budgets, bonuses for departments and individuals". The Government last year promised the performance agreements would form part of its commitment to restructure its various bodies and ensure initiatives and projects were being properly implemented. The reform efforts were launched in 2005 when the Government moved to restructure most of its departments and dismantle many others. As a result the number of departments was reduced from more than 70 to about 30. The process was driven by a desire to transform the Government from a service provider to a regulator.

Sheikh Mohammed urged the government institutions to work together to meet their targets, stressing the need to adopt "the best management practices for the development of the emirate's government services". The need for the performance agreements emerged in 2007 when the Government issued a policy agenda outlining its vision for the social, economic and infrastructure development of the emirate.

The Crown Prince yesterday urged the heads of departments to take the policy agenda as a standard against which they can measure their short- and long-term plans. The policy was followed last year by the drafting of a five-year strategy by the government entities. The Executive Council, aided by a number of international experts, worked closely with the departments on the shaping and application of these plans.

The agreements were viewed as part of the efforts to promote transparency, a principle being furthered by instilling a culture of constant reporting. Transparency was further shored up by the transformation of Abu Dhabi's Audit Authority into what is now the Accountability Authority. Changes also include a move to privatise services traditionally carried out by the Government. The police have started outsourcing some of their roles to the private sector through Saaed, a company set up to handle minor traffic offences. It is 50 per cent owned by Abu Dhabi Police.