Can Governments Decentralise And Keep Control Of Spending?

It goes without saying that governments around the world are under pressure to control spending. Most are trying to cut huge deficits that are a legacy of the financial crisis.

In some cases public sector policy is to also devolve decision making to the front line. But how can they achieve savings when the decisions are further removed from the central point that demands the control over costs? How can governments ensure every agency has full transparency over expenses incurred by public servants?

This is where policy objectives collide with reality. In my view, governments must display leadership at a number of levels. This should include forcing agencies to comply with minimum standards of automation over expenses. And it has to be top down from parliamentarians through to public servants – the same standards, the same transparency and above all, the same accountability.

This is not hard. The best way to control costs and devolve responsibility is to give all the players access to online technology that provides full transparency across the public sector and delivers flexibility for decision making.

One platform can provide all layers of government with a single tool to manage spending, including integration to different accounting systems and aggregated reporting so that the Minister and managers can see full spending down to the agency level and can even use dashboard reporting to compare effectiveness of units in the portfolio.

Now isn’t that something worth striving for? My only fear is that obfuscation and doubt will creep in to the decision making process – and line up as an excuse for not taking the simple decisions.

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Robert Kirby has more than 20 years experience in the expense management and payments industry, and has led business operations from three different continents. Prior to co-founding Spendvision in 2001, Robert held senior executive positions with Globeset, where he was initially based in Austin, Texas as VP responsible for B2B transaction services. Later he moved to Australia to become VP and general manager of the APAC and Japan business unit. Prior to Globeset, Robert held senior management positions at Telstra and led the development and implementation of eCommerce and payments products and services. Robert has held a position on the Board of the Australian Payments System Council – a body charged with advising the Australian Treasurer on the efficiency of the Australian payments system. He is also a member of the Commercial Payments International advisory board.