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Improving Public Services in Africa

Senior government officials representing ten African nations will arrive in Australia on Monday to take part in a Leadership Forum that will aim to improve public service delivery in the developing countries.

The Bond University Mirvac School of Sustainable Development will host the 11-day program, which is designed to examine best practice in infrastructure procurement.

For most of the twenty-nine delegates attending, the Commonwealth Secretariat-funded expedition will be their first international trip – a trip with a monetary value far greater than many of their annual salaries, which can be as low as 300 AUD.

Program Director and Associate Professor of Infrastructure at Bond University, Dr Michael Regan likens the magnitude of the event to that of CHOGM, but with a focus on the practicalities of policy implementation, rather than policy formation.

“This Commonwealth Secretariat program is one of the most important international education initiatives to take place this year,” he said.

“The delegates attending this workshop are representing countries where the level of literacy, health and education services is well below international averages for transition economies. Their need for improved procurement methods and public services is acute,” he said.

Dr Regan drew on the example of Mozambique to highlight the dire need for improved public services for the people of Africa in fundamental areas such as energy and water supplies, roads, public transport, health and education.

“Mozambique has a population similar to Australia, yet their literacy levels flounder at around 48%, compared to our 99.9%; their life expectancy is 41.8 years compared to our 80.2 years; and their GDP per capita in 2005-06 was less than 2,000 USD, while Australia’s was over 30,000 USD*.

“A recent OECD* report points to a country that is struggling to achieve broad-based growth, generate employment, develop a sustainable agribusiness sector or undertake many of the institutional reforms necessary to create a favourable climate for business and investment,” he said.

Dr Regan said the aim of the Leadership Forum is to give delegates the skills to effectively and efficiently allocate their limited budget and resources to deliver real life outcomes and assets for their people.

“The workshop will look at international best practice of public service delivery, with particular emphasis on public private partnerships (PPPs) and alliance contracting – approaches which our research has found to be more effective and greater value for money than traditional methods,” he said.

According to Dr Regan, Australia has the best expertise in the world when it comes to public procurement and the Leadership Forum will put forward the best Australia has to offer, featuring experts from leading firms including KPMG, Ernst & Young, Clayton Utz, Standard and Poor’s, the Department of Treasury and Finance Victoria and Arup.

Delegates will also have the opportunity to see ‘cutting edge’ examples of successful public-private partnerships up-close during site visits to the Brisbane River City Motorway and Southbank TAFE.

This is the second Commonwealth Secretariat program hosted by Bond University, with the university hosting a similar forum for Asia-Pacific leaders in May this year.

“They [the Commonwealth Secretariat] deemed the first program to be hugely successful and we anticipate hosting four more of these programs over the next year as part of Bond University’s commitment to improving education in public procurement, economic and social development in Africa, Asia and the Pacific,” Dr Regan said.

*Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2007

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