x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Municipal director calls for cut in red tape

Ahmed Shareef, the under-secretary of the Department of Municipal Affairs, said yesterday it was crucial to cut red tape if services for residents were to improve.

Abu Dhabi // A senior municipal director said yesterday it was crucial to cut red tape if services for residents were to improve. "Bureaucracy is always an element of concern and there is always a way of [cutting] bureaucracy," said Ahmed Shareef, the under-secretary of the Department of Municipal Affairs. He was speaking at the final day of the biannual meeting between the department and the three municipalities of Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Gharbia, or Western Region, which was held on Yas Island.

He said the responsibility to improve services lay with the municipalities' decision-makers. "Some might think about not changing something because it's been there for so long, but if nobody bothers to change it, who's suffering there? The customer, our residents, at the end of the day. "We want to overcome bureaucracy and minimise it in our government system." Mr Shareef said that training programmes for municipal employees were only one aspect of creating a more efficient organisation. "Making changes is not only about knowledge and knowing how to get things done in the municipal sector, it's about accessing that training to make things happen."

He said better services were the department's highest priority, but they could be achieved only if the municipalities addressed deficiencies in the system. "We want to do things more efficiently, more effectively, in a more timely manner and more professionally because time is a very crucial element here," Mr Shareef said. He said there were examples of progress, such as the introduction last year of the "e-permits" system. This allows developers applying for building permits to send designs and documents to the relevant authorities electronically. Previously, they had to visit municipality offices in person and submit paper copies.

Mr Shareef noted to the fact that the department now conducts customer service satisfaction surveys across the municipalities via its website, which was set up last December. It runs an English and Arabic site where residents can submit complaints. The site's address is http://dma.abudhabi.ae/en/default.aspx. Another forward step, Mr Shareef said, had been the department 's mapping of the borders separating Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Gharbia. Establishing defined geographical boundaries had helped to resolve jurisdictional disputes.

Mr Shareef said Yas Island was chosen as the venue for the meeting to remind delegates of what the emirate can accomplish through focused direction. "Yas Island is an example of successful leadership in our country," he said. "It's an example of getting things done when there is the will; how this place can grow from an idea on virgin land into something very innovative." @Email:mkwong@thenational.ae