The Dubai Government Excellence Program (DGEP) was initiated in 1997 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum with the view to not only promoting excellence within the public sector of the Government of Dubai but also honoring those deserving employees who pursue excellence and quality delivery of public sector services in their own areas of operation (Ahrens, 2013). Based on the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) model and underscoring a firm perspective or an entity orientation, the DGEP also helps to effectively identify public sector areas that require to be improved and facilitate swift action plans to address these inadequacies through the Dubai Executive Council (DEC). The excellence award program has over the years grown into a multifaceted entity located at the pinnacle of government decision-making in the emirate of Dubai, with available public sector scholarship demonstrating DGEP’s complexity through its capacity to provide a multitude of service offerings that include excellence awards, training and coaching seminars, customer satisfaction measurements, and publications (Ahrens, 2013). The focus of the present paper is nested on discussing and illuminating several dynamics associated with the DGEP, including how the program could be improved in the future.
The Issue of Mandatory Participation in DGEP
The key technologies of the DGEP are the excellence awards, whereby the DEC has underscored the mandatory nature of participation in the award competitions for “Distinguished Government Authority (for large entities), Distinguished Government Department (for small or newly established entities) and Distinguished Government Employee” (Ahrens, 2013, p. 585). The mandatory participation in these categories is an important element of DGEP, in my view, as it enables the Government of Dubai to establish which areas of the public sector are working according to the set parameters and which ones need to be improved. Additionally, mandatory participation is an important component of the DGEP, bearing in mind that the Government of Dubai is principally interested in ensuring that the conditions under which motivational effects can fully become operationalized are present in all public sector entities and government employees (Ahrens, 2013). Such an orientation cannot be attained if the categories were left to operate autonomously in deciding whether to participate in the excellence awards or not.
Ahrens (2013) argues that, by making the stated categories mandatory, the government has in effect “turned the evaluation of excellence into an obligatory passage point in the career projects of all senior managers in the Dubai Government” (p. 585). Such an orientation has important ramifications, particularly in light of ensuring that no public sector entity or government employee is left behind in efforts aimed at building a modern government through the high quality of performance and service (Saad & Al Afifi, 2015). Moreover, making the categories compulsory spurs competition within the public sector and motivates as many public sector entities and government employees as possible, resulting in a focused push to achieve excellence in service delivery and in modernizing administrative systems used by the Dubai Government (Ahrens, 2013; Wipulanusat W & Sunkpho, 2013). These elucidations illuminate the justifications behind taking the position that mandatory participation in the categories of Distinguished Government Authority, Distinguished Government Department, and Distinguished Government Employee is a significant element of the DGEP excellence award program.
Comparison with the Other Emirates
Available literature demonstrates that the United Arab Emirates consists of seven absolute monarchical emirates, namely “Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain, and Ras Al Khaimah” (Ahrens, 2013, p. 582). The Abu Dhabi emirate has attempted to emulate Dubai’s DGEP excellence award program in a focused attempt to achieve excellence in its public entities. For example, the Abu Dhabi Excellence Program Office (ADEP) runs two main departments (Government Excellence Department and Government Service Excellence Department) that are structured around the tenets of the DGEP, particularly when it comes to improving the performance of government entities through the design and implementation of innovative initiatives.
Like the DGEP, the ADEP develops principles and criteria of Abu Dhabi Government Excellence Award, identifies areas for improvement within the public sector, ensures the development of excellence culture through a commitment to excellence standards and requirements and the application of best practices, develops researches and best practices associated with service delivery and excellence, and monitors customer satisfaction index within the emirate (Oxford Business Group, 2007). Other emirates within the UAE have their own excellence programs that emulate the DGEP.
However, despite the limitations, it can be argued that the excellence programs of other emirates within the UAE are not as effective as the DGEP, possibly because of implementation challenges facing the award schemes and the fact that most of the other emirates are dependent on resources from petroleum (Makharita, 2005; Wipulanusat & Sunkpho, 2013). Dependence on petroleum resources, according to these authors, has worked to the disadvantage of streamlining the public sector entities in some of these emirates and ensuring that these entities are able to offer quality and market-oriented services to their citizens. Additionally, the emirates have not been as successful as Dubai in achieving excellence through their government excellence programs due to lack of popular public support and incapacity to develop programs that are truly people-centered and service-oriented. Lastly, most of these programs in the other emirates of the UAE are lacking in innovation and hence are unable to quicken the pace of change and drive service quality improvements in the same manner as the DGEP excellence award program.
To make the DGEP more effective, the relevant stakeholders need to develop a broad range of reward mechanisms that aim to reinforce positive behavior and ensure the efficiency of the public sector in delivering services is maintained. It may not be enough to recognize top-performing government employees by ensuring they shake hands with the monarchy; on the contrary, the scheme organizers need to come up with various levels of rewards for various levels of achievements to ensure the DGEP model is more inclusive in rewarding employees and government entities for good performance. Additionally, the Dubai Government needs to benchmark efficient processes and result-oriented methodologies against the public sector’s best practices to deal with the problem of measuring good performance and/or productivity. There is a need to learn from other performing public sector environments in Europe and North America with the view of implementing the main learning points in the Dubai context (Wipulanusat & Sunkpho, 2013). Lastly, there is a need to adopt and implement other innovative ways aimed at modernizing Dubai’s public sector, such as the use of emergent technology solutions to provide quality public services to the citizenry.
This paper has not only discussed several issues associated with the DGEP, but also suggested ways through which this program could be improved to become more inclusive and ensure the delivery of quality services to customers. Although the DGEP excellence award program has practically caused Dubai to reinvent its government and public sector service offerings, there is a need to implement the suggested practice changes and recommendations with the view to achieving more efficiencies in service delivery.
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Makharita, R. (2005). Innovations in public administration: The case of Dubai government, United Arab Emirates. Web.
Oxford Business Group. (2007). The report: Dubai 2007. New York, NY: Routledge: Author.
Saad, S.M., & Al Afifi, M.N. (2015). An empirical test and validation of Dubai government excellence program (DGEP) using ABCD model analysis. Advances in Business and Economic Development, 10(2), 171-185. Web.
Wipulanusat, W., & Sunkpho, J. (2013). Quality assessment in public sector: A view from public sector management quality award. Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Engineering, Project, and Production Management (pp. 1138-1147). Web.