Public management in the digital age
As in the private sector, the technological modernization and automation can generate positive impacts on public service and raise the level of efficiency, control and transparency in public administrationJuly-September | 2017
The digital transformation is already a reality in private business management: the use of innovative technologies has been providing cost reduction, increased productivity, opening of new markets and increasing efficiency in numerous sectors. The public administration, however, still has a long way to go in this area.
In Brazil, the issue faces challenges peculiar to the national reality. There is a lack of efficiency and transparency in our public administration – needs that could be met with the help of technology. IT resources can and should be used in the governance of the three levels of state administration, with simplification of processes, better accountability and a more assertive assistance to the population. There are several barriers (financial, cultural, technological), but there is some progress to celebrate.
“There is still much to be explored by the public sector in relation to innovative management initiatives offered by the private sector”, says Edson Lopes Cedraz, Deloitte’s Risk Advisory partner, based at the Recife office.
The government has evolved in its management instruments and improving the services offer to society, but still doesn't effectively take advantage of the digital solutions available. Regulatory demands for greater corporate governance in state-owned companies and social control initiatives have fostered progress in the modernization of certain processes, but we are still some distance behind other countries., Edson Lopes Cedraz, Deloitte's Risk Advisory partner.
De-bureaucratization of citizen assistance, smart cities infrastructure, digital services offerings and communication platforms, as transparency and accountability portals, are cited by Cedraz as opportunities to be explored. “The governments’ relationship with the society goes at a slow pace, but it’s not still” believes the Deloitte’s partner. “What we need is to disseminate existing good management practices, which incorporate technologies at various levels.”
On a global scale, recent estimates indicate that the expansion of the use of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data Analytics, could generate savings of up to $ $ 41.1 billion per year to the national administrative machinery – with a reduction of up to 1.2 billion working hours. The data are included in the study “How Artificial Intelligence Could Transform Government” , published by Deloitte in April 2017 (see below the video on the study).
“AI applications can reduce backlogs, cut costs, help overcome resource shortages, saving employees of executing routine tasks, inject intelligence into various processes and systems, in addition to taking care of many other functions which humans can’t handle with ease – such as researching millions of documents in the search for relevant content, in real time” recommends the study.
Cláudio Gastal is Chief Executive of Movimento Brasil Competitivo (MBC), a non-governmental organization dedicated to stimulating dialogue and partnerships between the public and private sectors and the third sector. He mentions examples of good digital governance in developing countries. “In Chile, there is already the citizen single record, which employs identification cards with chips, such as in passports. Uruguay concentrates various initiatives under the Agency for Electronic Government Development and the Information and Knowledge Society of Uruguay (Agesic). And India has been developing for some time the Digital India, a structured strategy to increase the digital presence of the government.”
In Brazil, an important step was taken with the Federal Data Processing Service (Serpro) in March 2017, with the release of the Federal Government Data Analysis Platform (GovData). It is a virtual environment in which 20 large databases on the population are unified, including the Individuals Registry (CPF), the Integrated Human Resource Management System (Siape), the Integrated Federal Government Financial Administration System (Siafi) and the National Motor Vehicles Registry (Renavam).
Ministries and public agencies can consult the information and use it in planning actions, monitoring initiatives’ effectiveness, expense control, monitoring of tax collection and numerous other possibilities. “It’s a big data-based tool that will help the government to improve its management, to better serve the citizen and optimize process costs” says Gloria Guimaraes, Serpro’s President. “Unified in a single environment, this data mass can circulate better among the various government instances, with more transparency and ease of access.”
GovData is one of the initiatives included in the Digital Governance Strategy of the Brazilian Public Administration (EGD), launched in 2016. Prepared by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Management, the document sets strategic goals and specific projects to expand the digital presence in the federal public administration. “A major challenge is to deliver more public services to society with fewer resources and more sustainably” says the Ministry’s secretary of Information Technology and Communication, Marcelo Pagotti. “Our proposal is to see the citizen in a unique way within the public administration, cleaning, for example, the various existing entries in the federal agencies.”
At the municipal level, initiatives such as the Programa Mais Gestão, created by MBC, seek to disseminate good practices and support city governments in the implementation of management projects. In the field of digital transformation, a recent highlight was the adoption of the Electronic Invoice (NFS-e) by the city government of Niterói (RJ). Although the use of NFS-e is required in the public administration since 2012, the Rio de Janeiro’s city is considered by Mais Gestão a success case in the adherence to the system; in four years of the electronic invoice implementation, the municipality’s ISS collection rose from R$175 million to R$272 million.
“The use of software is transforming the way the public administration relates to citizens, especially in municipalities” says Cesar Barbiero, Niterói’s secretary of Finance from 2013 to 2017. “Anyone can receive tax document via email, access the system to verify the authenticity of an invoice and also check the list of service providers who issue the NFS-e”, adds the manager.
“We want Mais Gestão to become a kind of ‘virtual app store’ for public administration solutions”, says Claudio Gastal, who intends to focus on small and medium-sized municipalities. “We gathered the methodologies and their respective implementation processes, which, with the use of technology, can be made almost completely automated.”
In the vision of Claudio Gastal, from MBC, this format can represent the next digitization wave of the Brazilian public administration. “At first, we had products like Via Fácil (automated toll collection) and other services, but the public still needed to go to the service offered. The trend now is to reduce this distance by means of digital platforms. The future is in smartphones” he predicts.
Model accounting management in Santa Catarina
In 2003, Santa Catarina started the digitization of its financial management processes. Recently, the integrated accounting, budget and accountability systems of the State have been assessed by the World Bank as of “third generation” — that is, in line with the most advanced resources used internationally. “The focus was always to improve the quality and accessibility of information, both for managers and for the population,” recounts Graziela Meinchem, State’s General Accounting director.
The data from the Finance secretariat feeds the Transparency Portal of Santa Catarina, in which one can check out expenses, tax collection, provisioning and other movements. “The citizen is the public sector’s investor” believes Graziela. “Technology helps clarify for the people how much each service provided costs and the investments’ efficiency. Furthermore, it allows the managers to make more assertive decisions, in a process that’s closer to the private sector.”
Standardized public accounting
Like it happened with the private sector, with the international accounting standards regulated by the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs), the public sector has also an opportunity to make progress in the standardization and transparency of its accounting data. These are the International Public Sector Accounting Standards, IPSAS.
In Brazil, the IPSAS implementation is being carried out in all spheres – federal, state and municipal – simultaneously, having its convergence period until 2024. According to Francisco Sant’Anna, Deloitte’s Audit partner, the adoption of these standards will allow equitable assessments, support the public administration decision-making and broaden the mutual trust in the accounting data. “In a time of mistrust and uncertainty as the current, this kind of initiative is a vital tool to support compliance with the fiscal responsibility law” he says.
With international public sector accounting standards, society will be able to analyze the results and compare them with others in the same sphere, having tools to monitor the budgetary execution and compliance with current legislation., Francisco Sant’Anna, Deloitte's Audit partner.
At a time when public institutions face the challenge of rescuing their credibility before society, technology and transparency are the big drivers so that governments can, indeed, make a difference in the citizens’ lives.
What employees need the most? Time. And that’s exactly what artificial intelligence promises to offer. Deloitte’s survey depicted in the video below explains how cognitive technologies can help the state agencies to free billions of working hours per year so employees can focus on real needs.
Artificial intelligence in government
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