Governments in the west are shifting their public service delivery model from a traditional to a new service delivery model. This has been caused by a variety of factors including increased demand for services from the public, lack of productivity growth in the public sector and budgetary constraints.
In the traditional model, Government collects tax revenue and assigns suppliers to carry offer services for citizens. In this model, the public has no real control or choice over who their suppliers are and the way in which they receive services. In addition, the Government has a near-monopoly of service provision and it is difficult for other suppliers to enter the space and compete in terms of price or innovation.
In this traditional model, citizens have limited influence on decision-making, are disconnected from service providers and have limited access to data. Suppliers on the other hand have little incentive to innovate, use size to provide multiple services and are disconnected from service users. Under this model, the government is a monopoly supplier and mainly contracts basing largely on price not outcomes, and is disconnected from citizens.
In the new service delivery model, Government provides information on suppliers to citizens and citizens interact with and buy directly from suppliers. The government also encourages diversity and innovation in the supplier chain. In this new model, the citizen is part of the decision-making process, is engaged with the service provider and has full access to information and analysis. The new model encourages competition, which in turn drives innovation and enables suppliers to work alongside multiple providers, respond to users and focus on outcomes. The Government in turn creates a framework for diverse suppliers, contracts suppliers based on outcomes and delivery and engages with citizens.
Three practical steps towards implementing the new model involve (i) empowering citizens, (ii) effective decision-making and (iii) an effective supply-chain. Citizens are empowered by providing them with relevant information about the services on offer in order to take decisions. For instance, a government can publish information on service performance metrics of schools and hospitals, allowing citizens to make more informed decisions on the appropriate service provider. Government may also develop platforms from which users could share both data and personal experiences about a range of services, to enable users become more empowered to challenge poor service providers or move to other providers.
A government can establish an effective supply chain through creating incentives for new suppliers to enter the market, putting in place effective regulation and fostering collaboration by encouraging potential providers to work together.
Transforming public services through effective decision-making involves ensuring effective accountability, the development of effective commissioning skills and frameworks in government and the design of failure regimes. Accountability is achieved through aligning effective decision-making; delivery and performance; and budget setting and financial control.
Effective commission can be achieved by avoiding overly complex and burdensome procurement policies and processes which work against suppliers that have less experience of the public sector.
This will encourage a wide range of suppliers, ensure better contract design to allow more suppliers to participate, improve skills training for procurement decision making, and align short term and long term objectives.
Finally, designing a failure regime ensures that there is continuity of services for citizens, in the event of provider failure. This is done through adequate contingency planning and building adequate reserve capacity in supply chains to avoid disruptions to citizens and substantial costs of replacing the provider.
Florence Gatome is a Senior Manager with PwC Rwanda Limited.