Public sector experts share effective activity solutions in Vilnius

29 October 2013, Last updated at, 17:08 EEST
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On 24–25 October 2013, the International Public Sector Efficiency conference took place in Vilnius, during which professionals shared global best practices – how to achieve better results at state institutions while spending less. During the conference’s two days of events, global experts in public sector reforms read reports and hosted workshops for more than 400 representatives of the Lithuanian and foreign public sector.

Gediminas Kirkilas, Chairman of the Seimas Committee on European Affairs, opened the conference and said that this international event was important not only for sharing best practices, but also for drawing the attention of many countries to the systemic problems of their respective public sectors.

“Our Presidency of the Council of the European Union pays a lot of attention to the improvement of the public sector. This conference is exceptional because it creates actual practical benefit. Any country's competitiveness depends on the efficiency of its public sector. Thus I believe that when we achieve good results, we can share our experience of success with other countries, especially our Eastern Partners," said Mr Kirkilas.

The international conference focused on four areas: public services, public procurement, the improvement of law and order, and the improvement of healthcare.

During the conference, 23 experts read their reports and two discussions took place. On the second day of the conference, the speakers hosted six workshops dedicated to solving the management problems of various areas of the public sector and increasing efficiency.

On the first day of the event, Rasa Noreikienė, Vice-Minister of the Economy of the Republic of Lithuania, presented the benefits of e-public procurement to the participants. The e-procurement platform ensures greater transparency and equal competition because even small suppliers can participate. Furthermore, e-procurement saves the time and funds of organizations. By using the platform, a tender’s duration is shortened by 15 days, and about 6–13.5% of budget funds are annually saved. According to Noreikienė, the most effective example of public procurement in Lithuania is mobile services.

“The e-procurement system saves the most important resources of the buyer and supplier – time and money. When participating in e-procurement tenders, we always offer quality services at a low price. This allows institutions to get the services they need faster, and to allocate the saved taxpayers’ money to other important areas,” said Andrius Baranauskas, a speaker at the conference and Corporate Communications Director for the Baltic States at Tele2.

Audrius Cininas, another speaker and Vilnius District Court judge, drew the attention of  participants to the ineffective courts of Lithuania. Like in many countries, in Lithuania the number of cases and consequently the workload of judges is increasing, and trials are getting longer.

According to Cininas, in Lithuania like in other countries, judges are constricted by various legal procedures, so they  have little scope for efficiency improvements. But he also admitted that some options existed and shared his experience about their utilization.

The judge gave a few suggestions how to improve the court system or similar such systems. According to him, quite often judges fall victim to various interim terms, which force them to pursue multiple legal actions at once and become 'multitaskers'. Instead of making courts work faster, these terms bog cases down in the mire of illogical formality.

“A court can be compared to a factory conveyor belt,” illustrates Cininas. “Every judge is like a conveyor worker. But instead of working on one production line, he works on many. What happens? A judge has to run from one conveyor to another, constantly stopping them, and if one conveyor suddenly begins moving, some resource will definitely be missing: a court clerk or a free hall. The judge is running about, and such uncertainty and fuss also wastes the time of and irritates other trial participants. For some reason, law-makers think that the sooner you start a case, the sooner you will close it. Practice shows otherwise.”

According to him, the current procedure whereby a judge has to begin a new case without having closed numerous previous cases, is faulty. Dealing with cases in blocks and not starting a new one without finishing the current one would be much more effective. For example, if a judge receives 100 cases at once, he should process them in blocks, say, of 20. Cininas has calculated that this principle alone would increase the throughput of cases by 30%.

Israel’s court expert, Shimeon Pass, also gave practical advice about the improvement of the Lithuanian judiciary system. By demonstrating Israel’s example, he showed that case processing terms can be shortened by about 50% and the number of judgments passed increased by over 40%, which also ensures better quality of judgements. Following the theory of constraints, which is used in management, Pass introduced participants to the specific means of ensuring the fast and quality operation of courts.

Experts of healthcare services paid much attention to the problems of hospital administration. During the event's discussion, politicians, medics, and management professionals agreed that in order to improve hospital activities, effective management of institutions was needed.

“The management of healthcare institutions isn’t good enough – that’s the main problem,” said Mykolas Truncė, a certified management consultant. The idea that healthcare institutions could be saved from the financial and operational crisis without additional funds, but only through effective organization management systems, was a recurring topic of the conference with examples from various countries.

Pieter E. Buwalda, who works at the Nij Smellinghe hospital in Drachten, the Netherlands, told the success story of his team. Before the changes, this hospital had the same problems as many others: overcrowded wards, long waiting lists, huge workload, and, obviously, being low on money all the time. The implementation of activity improvement project decreased bed occupancy by 20% and hospitalization time by 15%, thus the staff’s workload decreased as well.

“We could achieve all this solely through management, by changing processes, and strengthening planning,” says Buwalda. “But there's more. We are continuing to improve our activities. The management pays special attention to the hospital’s issues, and actively participates in solving them.”

The other speakers were: Kevin Sadler, Director of Civil, Family and Tribunals, HM Courts & Tribunals Service, Kristen Cox, Head of the State of Utah Department of Budget and Planning, and her Deputy, Greg Gardner, Milda Dargužaitė, Director-General of Investuok Lietuvoje, Klaus Heeger, Secretary-General of the European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (CESI), and others.

The event was organized by the U.S. non-governmental organization TOCICO, which unites global experts in contemporary methods. Since 2003, TOCICO has organized over 20 international conferences in the U.S., India, Japan, South Korea, and Europe. This conference was organized with partners: TOC sprendimai, UAB, the Ministry of the Economy of the Republic of Lithuania, and the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania.

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