Government officers sample US civic management style

Local government administrators across the island of Ireland this week are learning about a revolutionary management tool being adopted by their counterparts in the United States.

CitiStat, which is designed to improve the accountability of local government, is the brainchild of the Mayor of Baltimore, Martin O’Malley, who currently is undertaking a four-date speaking tour of Ireland, north and south, in a bid to explain its tenets on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

The CitiStat programme aims to improve the performance standards of city governments by setting tough improvement targets and then keeping these under constant review. Since its implementation in Baltimore some 14 months’ ago, the City has seen a marked improvement in the efficiency of many key services.

Robert Wilson, Assistant Chief Executive of Belfast City Council, said: “Belfast City Council already has shown civic leadership by initiating its Best Value programme three years ago, before it became a statutory responsibility for local authorities here in Northern Ireland to do so. Best Value relates to performance and continuous improvement, and it is important that we look at a wide range of models and ideas, including those from other countries.

“It is therefore extremely opportune that Mayor O’Malley should be visiting Northern Ireland at this time, and I believe that we can learn valuable lessons from his enthusiastic approach to championing change in local government.”

Mayor O’Malley already has brought his CitiStat message to Galway and Londonderry, and met officials from a further 12 Northern Ireland local authorities at the City Hall, Belfast on Thursday, before finishing his tour in Dublin on Friday.

Speaking on Thursday Mayor O’Malley said: “I hope that, through my visit to Ireland and by meeting representatives from local authorities on both sides of the border, I can share our achievements in Baltimore. The themes and approach that we took to improve city governance in Baltimore are universal and easily could be replicated in cities such as Belfast, Dublin, Galway and Londonderry.”

Martin O’Malley was elected in November 1999 as the youngest Mayor in Baltimore’s history, with an overwhelming 91 per cent of the vote.

His pioneer CitiStat programme, which calls Baltimore’s administrators and managers to fortnightly meetings to account for the performance of their individual departments and sections, has been developed from a New York Police Department initiative in the mid-1990s, which resulted in a dramatic fall in crime figures. (AMcE)

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