The Government officially launched its Public Service Improvement Programme on Friday, aimed at enhancing the level of work delivered by the Public Service.

Prime Minister the Rt Hon Hubert Ingraham delivered the keynote address to senior public servants assembled in the Paul L Farquharson Conference Centre, at the Police Headquarters on East Street.

“It is true that effective Public Service is essential to good governance and to the effective and responsive delivery of services to the general public,” the Prime Minister said.

“Anecdotal evidence from around our country, and indeed from around our region, suggests that the public is generally of the view that government departments and agencies are failing to deliver acceptable levels of service.”

He said he was pleased to learn that The Bahamas is among pioneers in the region in taking a scientific, measured approach to improving public services delivery.

“We commit to advance the pace of modernisation in the Public Service,” the Prime Minister said. “We recognise the inherent pitfalls in mandating a public agency to transform itself and also to oversee the transformation of other public agencies.”

In this vein, the Government is partnering with the College of the Bahamas and the Caribbean Centre for Development Administration (CARICAD), a regional inter-governmental organisation specialising in transforming and modernising the public sector of Caribbean states in the conduct of pilot programmes.

The public will engage in an evaluation of public sector customer satisfaction, the Prime Minister said. Additionally, the College of The Bahamas will conduct a series of customer satisfaction surveys so as to establish a scientific baseline from which the Government will seek to measure improvement in service delivery overtime.

“We will also canvass public officers responsible for the delivery of service to the public to determine attitudes, behaviours and values which impact their performance,” the Prime Minister said. “We will seek to explore the extent to which the organisational culture of the public sector impacts performances and attitudes in the delivery of service to the public.”

Information gathered from the public and from public officers will inform the design of targeted improvements in the government system, the Prime Minister explained. The results of the surveys are likely to be used to change the way the public servants work.

At the Eighth Annual Public Service Week Awards Ceremony in October 2997, the Prime Minister reaffirmed his “longstanding commitment” to cause improved customer service in the public sector.

This commitment was repeated in his 2008 New Year’s Address to the Nation at which time he announced the service improvement pilot project to be launched in six public agencies, namely:

· The Department of Public Service
· The Registrar General’s Office
· The Building Control Division
· Road Traffic Department
· The Department of Physical Planning, and
· The Passport Office

“Change is always difficult; individuals accustomed to behaving in a certain fashion tend to resist change,” the Prime Minister said. “So as to win support for the programme and to gain buy-in from stakeholders, each of the pilot agencies will have a Service Improvement Team, comprising focal points.”

The focal points will be responsible for keeping the aims and objectives of the project in the forefront by galvanising support for the project among public officers in and outside the pilot agencies.

The Prime Minister acknowledged those public officers selected to serve as the “face of” and “change agent” for their respective agencies and thanked them in advance for their agreement to take on this “important but difficult task”.

“Our partner CARICAD has opined that this project is designed to move all previous reform and modernisation efforts forward. In this project we seek to walk our talk,” the Prime Minister said.

He said he hoped that with the support of COB and CARICAD, the Government would garner both public and private sector support for this service improvement initiative.

“It is also my hope that the result will be the beginning of the transformation of our public sector,” the Prime Minister said.

Also participating in the opening were Minister of State for Finance the Hon Zhivargo Laing, who has responsibility for the Public Service; Dr Jayne Hodder, president, College of the Bahamas; Mr Richard Madavo, senior advisor, CARICAD, and Kriston Saunders, student, Grand Bahama Catholic High School.