Personal View…
Local Plans to Boost Development

By Lori Memo –

Public services are a core responsibility of central and local institutions and quality public services are crucial to citizen wellbeing. For government institutions to be able to provide these services they must have organizational structures and qualified people in place, who are firmly supported by their leaders. The provision of quality services also requires that employees understand and implement a positive service culture. A positive service culture exists when employees are motivated to have a customer-oriented and -focused approach to performing their daily tasks.

With the goal of building capacities of local governments to better serve their citizens, the USAID Planning and Local Governance Project (PLGP) is implementing the Quality Service Improvement Program (QSIP) in three partner municipalities (Fier, Patos and Kuçova). QSIP is a focused, concentrated campaign to improve service within an institution, led by municipal senior management with the active participation of key department staff and front-line customer service providers.

In the 1st and 2nd phases of QSIP, the USAID Project experts conducted Vision and Values and Service Audit Workshops with the participation of around 75 municipal staff from Fier, Patos and Kuçova. The workshops were aimed at creating a vision, awareness, understanding and commitment to the concept of service excellence and a customer-focused organization. As a follow-up to the workshops, the project experts worked with municipal staff from the three municipalities to develop two survey instruments: an Employee Survey and a Citizen Satisfaction Survey (different for rural and urban areas). The goals of the surveys were to explore employee perceptions of service delivery in their cities and to identify citizen priorities for service improvement.

The employee surveys garnered a sizable percentage of municipal staff participation in Fier, Patos and Kuçova; including technical and administrative staff, and local support departments and enterprises. The staff’s willingness to take part in the survey, and thoughtful feedback, demonstrated their appreciation for having their opinions solicited to improve their work environment.   PLGP staff will work with those who participated in the Service Audit workshop to implement recommendations from the employee survey.

To implement the citizens’ surveys, the USAID Project trained 51 student volunteers from these municipalities, who conducted the interviews in the urban and rural areas the three cities. The findings and recommendations from both surveys were shared with local officials. These instruments helped identify the areas of greatest concern to citizens and for which the municipality will develop targeted action plans to improve service delivery. The simultaneous implementation of the two surveys afforded the opportunity to compare municipal perceptions with citizen perceptions of the quality of service delivery.  In some cases, these perceptions diverged, which provided useful feedback for the municipality.

Citizens identified irrigation as one of the top service priorities in Fier. As part of the 3rd phase of QSIP, the Service Improvement and Action Planning Workshop, we worked with municipal staff to draft an Irrigation and Drainage Action Plan. Around 35 municipal staff participated in lively discussions; conducting a Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats (SWOT) analysis and identifying activities for the action plan using participatory methods.

“This workshop provided a comprehensive and clear overview of the existing situation in the Drainage and Irrigation sector in the territory of the Municipality of Fier, which led to identifying the problems, opportunities, and steps to be followed for improvement. We deeply appreciate the benefits from sharing similar experiences through this unique process of participation and involvement of the opinions, knowledge and judgment of all participants in the workshop.” – Director of the Technical Department for Irrigation and Drainage

QSIP (based on Tetra Tech’s methodology and adopted to the Albanian context) is tailored to create a “service culture” within local government, with the overall purposes to instill a customer-oriented and quality-focused attitude, encourage more proactive behavior by staff, and implement service improvements within the municipality. Fier, Patos, and Kuçova are the first three (out of six) selected municipalities that will work with the USAID project to improve identified services, while building front-line staff customer service skills.

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