Abu Dhabi advised to build trust by adopting NZ's office of ombudsman

Abu Dhabi Model Economies: In Abu Dhabi's efforts to be ranked among the world's top governments, officials have visited New Zealand for insights in key areas.

Beverley Wakem, New Zealand's chief ombusman, instructs and assists the government.
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In its efforts to be ranked among the world's top governments, Abu Dhabi has visited New Zealand for insights in key areas.

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Last year, a delegation from the Abu Dhabi Accountability Authority met New Zealand's prime minister, John Key. The parties discussed the effects of the global financial downturn and its aftermath on both economies, as well as procedures for mitigating the damage.

Officials from Abu Dhabi have also met experts at the treasury department in Wellington, which regularly releases fiscal strategy reports and economic updates on where, exactly, its government has been spending money.

Graham Vaughan-Jones, a former employee with the New Zealand government, is now an executive director at Nextera-Global, a consultancy based in the UAE that specialises in the field of government modernisation. He has put together programmes for delegations from Abu Dhabi who have visited New Zealand and says "there's been interest at a high level [from Abu Dhabi] about how you run government effectively".

Decades ago, New Zealand began a push for fiscal responsibility, "which was all about governments declaring more specifically what their income was, and how they were containing it, so it didn't have an adverse effect on private-sector development," he says.

"A lot of the local governments in New Zealand provide more information now at an earlier stage about what they see as their role, responsibilities to local citizens and about the services they intend to provide - and why," he adds. "There's a lot more accountability."

Abu Dhabi officials have also visited Beverley Wakem, New Zealand's chief ombudsman. As an independent mediator for ordinary citizens, the ombudsman reprimands, instructs or assists branches of the executive government for mistakes with past or present practices - and helps to get them corrected. The office, along with accompanying legislation, has helped to build "trust in government", says Ms Wakem.

"That, I think is very important," she adds. "At the moment you see huge upheavals around the world, and particularly in the Middle East. A lot of them have their foundation in the fact that people have lost trust in their government.

"I would encourage the Government in Abu Dhabi to consider creating that office because it can be of immeasurable value."