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Reforming the public services: opening out is the solution

Reforming the public services: opening out is the solution | business-magazine.mu

Budget Day is getting closer. This annual event provides an excellent opportunity to assess the viability, and cost-effectiveness of the public services being offered. Beneficiaries of those services are getting more demanding and less forgiving if their respective experiences or the quality of the services fall short of their expectations.

The public sector will continue to face increasing budget constraints going forward. Now, if we add a new component to this equation: our ageing population, the pressure on the public purse will no doubt increase further.

So addressing all those pressure points and increasing demands is essential if we want to avoid ending-up with an unaffordable and unsatisfactory public experience. We do not want to see this happening.

The government on its own will not be able to deliver on those promises. At PwC, we believe that opening out of the public sector is essential to meet those challenges. Rather than taking the role of a solution provider, the government should aspire to become more of a market enabler.

Bringing together a diverse range of providers to offer those services can only benefit the New business players will mushroom out of this policy and contribute towards jobs creation and tax collection. With more private suppliers coming together to deliver those services on a competitive basis, public service demands will be better met. T

his growing landscape will promote innovation (outside providers with new ideas and expertise), competitive choice, renewed passion and trust. All the factors at play should drive end-user satisfaction. With the opening out policy, the Government shall effectively be holding the stick and not be “subject to it”.

Setting performance standards

As a start, the policy should be to assess which public services really need to be delivered and by whom. Conducting this honest assessment forms part of a Reform agenda.

As an example, there are potential areas where further opening out is possible: the computerisation of the healthcare services that would allow medical practitioners to keep track of the history of the patient records; the development of a digital biometric smart card to prevent identity fraud; contracting out of the food services in the hospital sector; private sector involvement in non-performing schools.

But for the opening out opportunities to grow, the quality of services and more critical, the accessibility and reach of services have to be safeguarded.

Government has to set the performance delivery standards’ (that it has so far failed to impose on its own operations) and ensure those standards are met with penalties for private operators.

Rather than waiting for contracted opportunities to arise, the Government could contemplate a policy of openness that promotes private sector led proposals and solutions for the Government to consider where the industry believes it can make a difference to a particular public service.

This is a reflection of the public private partnership (PPP) spirit. Despite the good intentions, the PPP has yet to deliver on the transformational changes that were planned.

So a critical support from Government is needed to deliver on this. In those cases, the terms of the contractual agreement should be reviewed to reflect the risk borne by the private sector player.

Payments should start only once tangible improvements in those services are experienced. For this to work in practice, once an opportunity exists, an exclusivity period (procurement terms to be revisited to capture this option) should apply together with a clear understanding on how failure/disruption will be mitigated (and penalised). The reforming agenda will be punctuated with stressful and anxious times.

But those predicaments should not delay the opening out. The Government will need to play an ever more critical role in securing success. The future health of our public services demands more private sector driven solutions not less.

About Rajeev Basgeet

\Rajeev Basgeet is currently Director at PwC in Mauritius within the Business Recovery Services, while leading the Government and Public Sector Industry Group. Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW), he has been at PwC for the last 11 years, eight and a half of which were with PwC UK.

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