Taking pride: public service leaders share their greatest achievements of 2021

By on 15/02/2022 | Updated on 15/02/2022
Photo by Antoni Shkraba via Pexels

From playing a part in making parliamentary workplaces safer, to growing a fledgling government tech agency, and coordinating crises management – officials share their memorable work moments

Civil servants around the world work hard behind the scenes delivering governments’ agendas and providing services for citizens, often without much fanfare. To celebrate some of the achievements made over the last year, we at Global Government Forum asked senior civil servants what they or their colleagues have accomplished that they’re most proud of.

New Zealand: pride in the workforce

I’m most proud of our leaders and people. The last two years have been tough, and we likely have another one ahead – through it all, I’ve been impressed by the perseverance, positivity and commitment of our staff.

Our leaders have stepped up to guide their teams through this extraordinary time. They’ve navigated uncertainties, rapid evolutions, and different ways of working all while managing the impacts of the response on their own lives as well. Across the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), leaders have gone above and beyond to look out for their teams, stay connected and keep the work moving forward. I’m incredibly grateful.

The pandemic has highlighted that DIA’s core values of working together, being kind to one another and taking pride in our work empower us to carry on and deliver for the people we serve. It’s been remarkable to see our staff working and engaging in different ways to make things better for New Zealand and New Zealanders.

Paul James, secretary for internal affairs, government chief digital officer, and secretary for local government, New Zealand


Australia: playing a part in making parliamentary workplaces safer  

In 2021, I led a review into the processes and procedures relating to serious incidents in Australia’s parliamentary workplaces. The report I delivered to the government made significant findings and recommendations to improve how serious incidents are prevented and dealt with, particularly assault or sexual assault.

I also provided recommendations on how to ensure reporting and responses to serious incidents provide empowerment to victims and ensure that services and support provided to victims are timely, effective, and ongoing.

The Australian government agreed to adopt all ten recommendations of the report and has already put significant measures in place to make workplaces safer. I strongly believe that every employee has the right to feel safe at work, and I am incredibly proud to have had the opportunity to make our workplaces safer and more respectful.

Stephanie Foster, deputy secretary governance, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Australia


Photo by RENDY ARYANTO/VVS.sg

Singapore: further establishing a fledgling government agency

Building GovTech into a forward-looking tech organisation is a labour of love for many of us. Many people doubted that a government could build strong internal tech capabilities and attract world-class talent. But we have managed to bring together many good engineers from across the world with a strong passion for improving the lives of people in Singapore through technology. This is a significant achievement of GovTech and is a shining example for many other countries to follow.

Chan Cheow Hoe, government chief digital technology officer and deputy chief executive, GovTech, Singapore


Philippines: building the bureaucracy back up  

During these challenging times, the Philippine government is not exempt from the hits and blows brought about by disruptions so we were called upon to retool the whole bureaucracy to build itself back up, respond quickly to changes and continue delivering public service as we ought to.

The Civil Service Commission did its best to issue timely policies that address the needs of public servants. COVID-19 has become a perfect excuse to institutionalise policies that would help the public sector workforce adapt to the situation and transition to the ‘new normal’ (read more on this in the first part of Global Government Forum’s Leaders’ Roundup series).

Alicia dela Rosa Bala, chairperson, Civil Service Commission, Philippines 


UK: aligning data sources

This has been my first year at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and I think the achievement has to be a sense of operating at scale across my Data Capability Group during such an intense year. By adopting all of our survey operations and transformation business into the group, we now have all ONS data ingress in one command. This means aligning our data sources from traditional surveys to administrative data, alternative data assets, and even synthetic data with a single purpose of sweating the data value. And this has been undertaken during a year my teams have been supporting a very successful Census operation and providing underpinning technology capability for ONS teams delivering such critical business as the Covid Infection Survey. 

Alison Pritchard, deputy national statistician and director general for data capability at the Office for National Statistics (ONS)


Estonia: increasing resilience through the coordination of crises management

Last year the Government Office of Estonia became the institution responsible for the coordination of crises management. This has been in the making for several years and ensuring that every part of the new formula functions better than before has been a major achievement. As a result, we can say that Estonia is now more resilient than a year ago.

Taimar Peterkop, secretary of state, Estonia

This is part of our Leaders’ Roundup series. Read the other articles:

Modernising government HR, co-created policies, and personalised services: public servants share their 2022 reform priorities

From response to recovery: public service leaders reveal their standout COVID-19 innovations

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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