Poor management keeps governments from goals, report finds

KMPG International performance survey

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Information technology can do much to improve productivity in government but it is hampered by ineffective management, an international survey of senior civil servants has found.

KPMG International’s survey, based on in-depth interviews with government executives in the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom, revealed that higher service quality and better productivity are high on the list of imperatives across the global public sector. But IT isn’t helping governments progress as much as it should, according to the “Performance Agenda: an International Government Survey.”

“The public sector suffers too many problematic IT projects,” the report states. “Poor management of IT initiatives, along with little or no choice in available technologies, is part of the problem.”

Governments worldwide are struggling with a shortage of IT and procurement specialists, according to KPMG. “This is particularly vital, given that the strategic management of human capital is regarded as the top measure for delivering efficiency and performance gains,” the report states.

In the survey, 28 percent of executives ranked workforce management as generating the greatest performance benefits, followed by process re-engineering (16 percent), improved financial accountability and management, e-government (8 percent), competitive sourcing (5 percent), and staff reduction (2 percent).

“We need to move [human resources] to the front,” said Tony Dean, cabinet secretary for the government of Ontario, Canada. “It’s about who we hire, how we keep them, how we develop them. If we don’t have employees engaged, how can they engage the public?”

Researchers pointed out that the results highlight a mismatch between current initiatives intended to increase performance and those that executives believe would bring the greatest benefit. “For example, much attention is paid to competitive sourcing and e-government schemes, even though these are perceived [in the survey] as providing limited efficiency gains, whereas human capital management and process re-engineering are acknowledged to provide clear benefits,” they said.

Also in the survey, 66 percent of executives believed that increased skills development would be most effective in helping implement performance and efficiency measures.

Another issue that affects governments worldwide, KMPG found, is the ongoing difficulty involved in determining the true costs and benefits of projects. The best way to overcome the problem would be to integrate financial and performance information, respondents said.

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