Address by Mr K. Ponnusamy, Senior Chief Executive, Ministry of Civil Service Affairs & Administrative Reforms on the occasion of the Excellent Customer Service Award and Outstanding Achievement Award 2004 Vaghjee Hall, Port Louis, 11th Nov. 2004
The Hon. Prime Minister
Hon. Minister of Civil Service Affairs & Administrative Reforms
The Secretary to Cabinet & Head of the Civil Service
Excellencies, Members of the diplomatic Corps
The President and members of MQI
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am very pleased to welcome the Hon. Prime Minister and all of you very warmly at this prestigious ceremony. The 2004 Award Ceremony assumes a wider dimension this year by the inclusion of the Outstanding Achievement Award in the Public Service.
With your permission, Hon. Prime Minister, I shall borrow a few words from your message published in the magazine which will be distributed today. "Customers have a right to expect good service, but one of the merits of the Award Scheme is that it aims to reward not just good service but excellent service".
Your words are pregnant with meaning. It follows that we have reached a point where we can proclaim that good service is not good enough. We should all strive to offer excellent service.
When I joined the Public Service, my letter of appointment contained inter alia the following sentence: "Your whole time will be at the disposal of the Government". As a beginner, I thought it was a hollow statement. Far from it, the Government itself is at the disposal of the population 24 hours a day throughout the year. By extension the Public Officer who is employed by the Government is also at the service of the population. On so many occasions, e.g. international conferences and emergencies of all sorts, we have seen Public Officers standing up to the challenge at any time of day and night and offer the best of themselves. The culture of service is ingrained in the Public Officer. What he needs to do as he grows in the system is to set higher and higher standards to accomplish his tasks. This is one way of achieving excellence.
We are extremely happy at our close partnership with the Mauritian Quality Institute in promoting the culture of excellence in the Public Service through the organisation of the two Awards. However, beyond the Awards, our association with the MQI has enabled the Public Officers to network with our friends in the Private Sector on a number of training projects and share best practices. Furthermore, public sector institutions will be able to participate this year in the National Quality Award organised by the MQI. This welcome synergy between the Public Service and the Private Sector will undoubtedly improve our score in the field of good governance.
In his speech at the recent CAPAM Conference in Singapore, the Prime Minister of Singapore spoke of four principles which characterise the Public Service of his country and which, to my mind, are applicable to the Public Service of other countries . They are:-
Ø Leadership is Key
Ø Anticipate Change and Stay Relevant
Ø Reward for Work and work for Reward
Ø A Stake for Everyone, Opportunities for All
He went on to say that principles are empty words unless public officers believe in them, share them across agencies and translate them into policies and practices.
On the third principle, that is Reward for Work and Work for Reward, I should like to refer to the case of an African lady whom I met in 1986 at a UNESCO meeting in Harare. After she made a brilliant presentation on the tree planting campaign spearheaded by her movement "Green Belt", I congratulated her and told her that I wished that there were more people like her on the African continent. In October this year, I was overjoyed when I learned that the African lady was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Mrs Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan national and presently a Deputy Minister is the first African woman to be bestowed with a Nobel Prize. She did not expect any reward. She simply had unshaken faith in her mission.
This afternoon, we are celebrating excellence in the Public Service. As Chairman of the Grand Jury, I wish to thank and compliment all the participants in both Award Schemes. The Grand Jury has noted that there is a genuine desire on the part of Public Officers to constantly upgrade their services and earn the respect of the citizen. It is of paramount importance that the citizen respects the contribution of each Government agency and we are glad that members of the public have participated in the Best Public Image Award by expressing their choice over the phone. The Grand Jury has also noted some hesitation on the part of Heads of Ministries/Departments to submit entries for the Outstanding Achievement Award which is being organised for the first time and hopes for wider participation next year.
I would like to put on record the tremendous work put in by the members of the Grand Jury, the staff of the MQI, the assessment teams and the personnel of the Ministry of Civil Service Affairs & Administrative Reforms and thank them very sincerely.
In a couple of years we shall have to benchmark our Awards with those of other countries like Australia, Malaysia and Singapore which have made giant strides in the field of service delivery. This will enable us to swim in deeper water. It is my wish that our citizens, with their enormous talents and innovative minds, work on projects which can be taken beyond the shores of Mauritius. We shall then be able to capture the new opportunities.
I thank you for your attention.