In his introductory address, public sector session moderator Thomas Spiller of SAS neatly summed up some of the biggest challenges faced by national governments: dealing with the current economic climate and managing a crisis of confidence within their governments. In his experience, government responses seem to fall in to three camps: slash and burn cost cutters, wait and see procrastinators and the proactive innovators. In the sessions that followed I would say that we were definitely hearing from the innovators.
The first presenter was Kees Kloet of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, talking about the way the Dutch government is using business intelligence to prevent fraud and waste and manage the difficult balancing act of preserving the environment whilst supporting the Netherlands’ highly productive agricultural sector. In Kees’ estimation, to achieve the same result without analytics, they would need to employ five times as many people. His department’s successes in using business analytics has prompted inquiries from other departments because of their ability to deliver valuable insight out of large stores of often imperfect data.
As second speaker Beate Lohmann of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Germany talked about her department’s role in promoting innovation in government – a strategy that combines reducing the cost of government whilst sustaining growth and opportunity, something that is on the minds of governments around the world. The German government is examining a range of measures that will see increased participation and autonomy at the local level. She also talked about the need for increasing cross-border integration as some of the challenges that Germany faces are also transnational.
Closing speaker Paul Vicke, President of the European Healthcare Fraud and Corruption Network (EHFCN) & National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance, Belgium talked about fraud, corruption and waste in the healthcare sector. (In one report, these activities account for an average of 5.59 percent of all healthcare costs). Paul describes fraud and waste as “one of the last remaining unreduced business costs." Sadly, the whole subject of fraud and corruption in the healthcare sections is still a taboo one. We still tend to see healthcare professionals as following a higher calling when the reality is that they are the same frail humans as the rest of us and therefore subject to the same temptations and failings. In investing just one medical procedure alone, more than 3 million euros were saved.
All-in-all, it was heartening to see that the Public Sector has a vibrant program of innovation – something that we don’t always associate with our traditional views of the public sector. Perhaps it’s time business took a few lessons from our civil servants.