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Main address: analysis of the latest international experiences

11 February 2014


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Right Honorable Francis Maude, British politician and incumbent Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, who spoke about Britain's five principles in making government work, says while there's no single formula for success, there are five ways to improve the system.

Britain projects to save up to £13 billion after reducing the number of its employees by half and initiating innovative ways to deliver basic public services, mainly through digital means.

A successful government will no longer be measured by staff growth or the usual excel sheets that contain traditional performance indicators. Instead, the success of government or a city will be measured based on whether it has answered this question: "How has my work today helped people?"

According to Maude, five principles have to be incorporated by any government that would like to keep up with the pace of global development. It has to be transparent and open; it has to have tight spending controls; it has to have loose operation controls, it has to be digitally proactive
and overall, be innovative.

Maude says the first principle deals with transparency or openness.

"Using transparency and open data to bring about continuous improvement can help governments to address rising public demand," he said. Although this move will take out governments, bureaucrats or politicians, of the comfort zone; this would nonetheless means accountability.

Transparency will enable citizens to see exactly how their money is being spent, and this, Maude said, will also sharpen accountability as well as improve efficiency and effectiveness.

"Transparency is an idea whose time has come. It's a friend of the reformer," Maude said. "Governments become better by being open about the things that are working and aren't working. Too often, the first instinct of government is to hide what hasn't worked. And being open about it, being transparent builds trust in our citizens."

Second principle is tight controls.

Way back in 2010, Maude said the UK government spends 4 pounds in every 3 pounds  t earns, ending up with 25% borrowing in every revenue pound it makes. "We couldn't continue doing that," he said, stressing that this "wasteful" practices have been fuelled by uncontrolled spending which have gone to very expensive contracts in consulting, marketing, IT and many more.

"There was no cross government checks," Maude said. To address this, the UK government introduced initiatives, including the creation of a strong corporate centre, called the Efficiency and Reform Group, to detect fraud and uncontrollable debts and excessive spending. The group worked in close coordination with the finance ministry and the treasury.

" The solution of the government to the financial crisis was to make the government work like the best-run businesses. The result was substantial. Through these controls, the government has saved £4bn on the first year, £5.5bn on the second year, over £10bn on the third year, and this year, Maude said they are looking at a savings in excess of £30bn.

Third principle is loosening the controls and easing the way services are
delivered.

There are different ways on how to deliver services and to be able to deliver better services, operation controls should be loosed up. Maude said the front liners should be empowered to do what they do best. Politicians or bureaucrats are not in the best position to identify the best ways to serve the people, but the front liners are, he said.

Fourth is to go digital.

If it can be delivered digital, the transaction should be done that way, Maude argued. He said the top 25 services in the UK are now done via online and this has created a simpler, clearer and cheaper pathway to deliver services. "We have to create digital services that are so powerful and compelling that those who can use it will use it, and those who can't will only be given support," he said.

The public should be consulted first before a new application or technological services are offered, Maude said. "In the past, the public's first time to see the application is when it goes online. This is the wrong way to do it," he said. In the past, the big procurement approach where the public is not consulted has caused funds to go down the "big black hole".

"Before you start a technology, people should be asked what do they want, and how do they want to use it," he said. He added that the cost of online transaction has cut IT spending significantly, and has also resulted in great convenience. "Now, people can transact with the government at the time of their choosing," he said.

Lastly, governments have to be innovative.

There is a need to create a culture of innovation in public service. Public servants should be given flexibility and permission to try new things and make mistakes, provided that they learn from these mistakes.

"We have to create a culture that supports innovation. If you have not made mistakes, then you have not tried new things. And without trying new things, you will not be able to learn anything new," Maude said.