UK perm secs reject calls for chief risk officer, Cypriot MPs approve civil service hiring reforms, and US feds gain further discounted education: management & workplace news roundup

By on 20/01/2022 | Updated on 02/02/2022

Global Government Forum’s weekly digest of all the news you need to know but might have missed

Permanent secretaries baulk at calls for chief risk officer in UK government

Alex Chisholm, UK Cabinet Office permanent secretary, and Sir Chris Wormald, permanent secretary at the Department of Health and Social Care, have both challenged proposals for the introduction of a chief risk officer tasked with working across government.

The proposed role would take the helm of a new Office for Preparedness and Resilience. It comes as one of several recommendations made in December 2021 by members of the Risk Assessment and Risk Planning Committee at the House of Lords.

At a recent Public Accounts Committee (PAC) session, Chisholm said a cross-government risk officer role could make accountability harder to determine and make passing on blame easier among permanent secretaries. Wormald meanwhile voiced concerns that the role would prove too much for any one individual to manage.

“For something that covers 40% of the economy, is there actually a person who you would appoint who is able to do that? I’m not sure that you could,” Wormald said.

Chisholm added: “If there’s a sense of ‘I don’t need to worry about risk, it’s somebody else’s problem’…that might move the burden of responsibility from where it most needs to sit.”

Performance tests for civil servants approved by MPs in Cyprus

Members of parliament in Cyprus have approved the passage of two bills aimed at changing how civil servants’ performances are evaluated and used to justify promotions.

The new legislation is also expected to reform traditional hiring procedures by putting oral interviews and written exams ahead of seniority.

The laws have been imposed by Brussels, with their approval allowing Cyprus to access €85m from the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility.

Under a changed system, promotions will follow evidence of experience, academic qualifications and employee performance taken from annual reports and recommendations from heads of departments.

The new process will also include a category of position known as ‘interdepartmental promotion’, which aims to make moving between ministries and services easier for employees. Any civil servant will be able to attain these positions, provided they have the relevant academic, professional qualifications and experience needed for the role.

The passing of the bills has been welcomed by some Cypriot MPs. In a report by the Financial Mirror, Christiana Erotokritou, MP for centre-right party DIKO, commented: “As other countries move at the speed of light and invest in modern methods, Cyprus is stuck in the 1950s, still stamping documents with official seals.”

US Capitol attack spurs data scientists to predict next insurrection using AI

Data scientists are working to develop AI modelling techniques that can predict outbreaks of political violence following an attack on the US Capitol Building in 2021.

A method of analysis known as ‘unrest prediction’ uses AI algorithms to anticipate political violence in a country, based on historic, economic, and democratic data trends. Unrest prediction tools can then flag potential hotspots for violence across a country, and potentially stop outbreaks before they occur.

CoupCast is one such tool based at the University of Central Florida, which last year said that of 42 national elections scheduled to occur in 2021, around 40% were at high risk of violence. In an article published by The Conversation last year, Clayton Besaw, an affiliated fellow at the university who also helps run CoupCast, said countries with “longer and more recent histories of election violence” were more likely to experience outbreaks of violence in future.

CoupCast’s database tracks all incidents of political violence going as far back as 1975. These data show that 2020 was the worst year for political violence on its records, with 54% of national elections involved some form of violence. Prior to 2020, the worse year for civil unrest was 1990, where violence occurred in around 46% of elections.

You can read the full article here

OPM involves three new schools in discounted tuition fee programme for feds

The US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has struck a deal with three US-based universities to join the Federal Academic Alliance, a programme that allows federal employees to continue their education for discounted cost.

The programme makes available scholarships in disciplines where federal agencies often find skills gaps. Such areas include acquisition, human resources, financial auditing, economics, information technology and science, as well as engineering and mathematics.

The universities to have joined include Florida Institute of Technology, Rosemont College, and Villanova University’s colleges of Professional Studies and Liberal Arts and Sciences. Florida Institute of Technology will offer a 10% reduction on tuition costs for undergraduate and graduate online degree programmes, while Rosemont College will offer a 56% discount on undergraduate programmes, and will cut in half the cost of graduate programmes to all federal employees and their families. A tuition fee discount of 5% will meanwhile apply to online graduate degree programmes at Villanova.

According to a report by Government Executive, Rob Shriver, associate director for employee services at OPM’s said the programme was “part of [a] continued effort to address critical skills gaps in mission critical occupations, increase federal employees’ access to high-quality, affordable educational resources, and further develop and retain the federal workforce.”

About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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