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Serco Institute: KSA government & private sector pandemic collaboration - a model for improved services beyond health emergency

Published: 17 Aug 2021

A report by think tank Serco Institute, released in August 2021, has revealed how the KSA government can continue to use strategic partnerships with private sector organisations to create the capacity and flexibility to support the delivery of public services post the pandemic. The report also reveals why collaborating with the private sector should be embedded in KSA policy-making.

Commenting on the launch of the report, Serco Institute Deputy Director Ben O’Keeffe said:

“The pandemic has seen government services face some of their toughest challenges. However, through collaboration with the private sector, they have been more resilient than anyone would have imagined before the emergence of Covid-19.

“The flexibility and capacity created by the private sector, as well as the expertise and insight it offers, has allowed governments to rapidly make and then implement effective policy decisions in response to the changing conditions.”

For example, 19 new apps and platforms were designed to serve public health functions and provide health care services in the Kingdom. These applications were created through collaborations between the government and the private sector during the pandemic. The paper highlights three apps in particular: the Tetamman app, which, among other functions, allows users to book tests, receive results and access isolation support services; the Tawakkalna app, used by citizens and residents to gain various permits for such things as exercise and emergency travel; and Sehhaty, which enables users to access health information and medical e-services provided by different health organisations.

Examining the impact the private sector can have when collaborating in the delivery of government services, the report identifies four key benefits:

  1. Cost efficiency - the commercial nature of outsourcers means there is a requirement for efficiency
  2. Flexibility - companies providing services to government are often more able to easily scale-up and down operations, for example, through the movement of staff between contracts
  3. Innovation & expertise - drawing on international expertise and cutting-edge practices, outsourcers are well-placed to capitalise on innovation in their delivery of public services
  4. Quality & accountability – clear quality expectations, performance measures and competition all increase quality in the delivery of services and ensure organisations are answerable to government

The report, which is titled Working Together: Collaboration & Covid-19 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, also makes three policy recommendations. Firstly, it calls for governments to build on their use of external expertise – from the private sector, as well as academia – which has been vital to responding to the pandemic, from the development of vaccines to the implementation of public health measures. It says that applying the same approach in other areas of public services could see international best practice brought to the design and delivery of KSA government services, benefiting citizens and residents.

Secondly, the report calls for a better understanding of the benefits external suppliers bring to government in terms of flexibility. Often used as a temporary or emergency measure, the longer-term efficiencies that can be gained by effectively leveraging external suppliers could extend beyond the pandemic, the report says. For example, services which do not have a consistent rate of demand can benefit from having a supplier who can scale delivery up and down as and when required.

Finally, the report calls for the relationships between government and industry developed during the pandemic to be formalised through supplier frameworks, forums and other channels. These could allow government-business partnerships to be more resilient and effective going forward.

KSA Country Director Mona Althagafi added:

“There is an opportunity to take those new and impactful working practices forward post-pandemic. The relationship between the government and private sector has proved to have many benefits during the crisis, from reducing costs to increasing innovation, providing emergency solutions and more.

“As we emerge into the ‘new normal’, both government and the private sector must now work together to embed the positive practices and important lessons of the last 18 months into their everyday operations outside of the health emergency.”

You can read the full report here.