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Evidence-based decision-making improves, but further progress is needed across the public sector

Over one quarter of civil servants report an improvement, but 55 percent state 'no change' to empirical evidence based policy-making under coalition. However, statistics show significant increase in the number of civil servants trained to tackle fraud and error in the last year

26 February 2013 - Evidence-based decision-making has improved under the coalition government, but further progress is needed if the public sector is to realise the full potential of its big data according to the findings of a SAS annual survey1, released today. "Government Fraud and Evidence Based Decision Making", revealed that 27 per cent of public sector professionals felt that their ability to use empirical evidence to inform new policies had improved since the coalition came to power, but 55 per cent reported no change.

Amanda Gardiner, public sector specialist at SAS UK, commented: "When it comes to policy-making, the government has much to gain from adopting an approach based on empirical evidence. Simply put, an evidence-based approach would result in more robust policies delivered on budget and on time, with significantly fewer 'hidden surprises'. Although it has started on the journey already – early initiatives include the work of Cabinet Office's behavioural insights team, which is applying randomised control trials to develop policy – today's figures show that the government needs to do more if it is to realise the full benefits of data-driven policy-making".

Fighting fraud

The annual study also reveals how awareness of government analytics services to combat fraud and error has changed over the past 12 months, including a significant increase in the number of respondents who have received specific training to tackle fraud and error:

  • 26 per cent said they had received training in the last 12 months, compared with just 18 per cent in 2011

  • 19 per cent said they had received training in the last 6 months, compared with just 9 per cent in 2011

The study showed similar increases when respondents were asked whether their department had carried out an exercise or study into fraud in the last year. Investigations into error showed a less significant increase:

  • 27 per cent said they were aware of an investigation into losses through fraud in the last 12 months, compared to just 20 per cent in 2011

  • 21 per cent said they were aware of an investigation into losses through error in the last 12 months, compared to 19 per cent in 2011

However, despite these increases, the findings also suggest that there are still a significant number of civil servants unsure whether their department had carried out an investigation into fraud or error over the last 12 months, although that figure showed a slight year-on-year decrease for fraud investigations:

  • 46 per cent said they were unaware of an investigation into losses through fraud in the last 12 months, compared to 49 per cent in 2011

  • 51 per cent said they were unaware of any investigations into losses through error in the last 12 months, compared to 49 per cent in 2011

The research echoes the findings of a National Audit Office report into 'Tackling tax credits error and fraud', released last week, which found that HMRC had strengthened its approach during 2011-12 through better use of data analysis, but would need an 'improved understanding of risks and better use of information in order to tackle error and fraud effectively' in the future.

Gardiner commented: "Fraud and error comes in all shapes and sizes, with new types continuously evolving. For this reason, the government must be prepared for a long and protracted campaign to unearth instances of fraud and error. Training, of course, will be key, and the government has made some definite progress in this field over the last 12 months. However, while certain government departments are clearly leading the way forwardwith innovative approaches to tackling fraud, there is still work to be done – and progress to be made – across the wider public sector. The solution lies in a holistic, flexible approach that not only detects the fraud already understood by the public sector, but also prevents the fraud it does not expect. And lessons from the private sector show that these solutions can only succeed when implemented alongside the correct strategy and operational environment – with buy-in from all stakeholders."

Earlier this month, SAS was ranked a leader in the recent  The Forrester WaveTM : Enterprise Fraud Management, Q1 2013 report .2  SAS for enterprise fraud management, described by the Forrester report as a "true power tool", scored highest among all eight vendors in both current offerings and strategy.

-ENDS-

1. Conducted by Dods in December 2012 – see ‘Methodology’ below.

2. Forrester Research, Inc. The Forrester Wave: Enterprise Fraud Management, Q12013, Andras Cser with Stephanie Balaouras and Elizabeth Langer.

Methodology:

In December 2011, Dods conducted a study with SAS into civil servants' awareness and supply of government analytics services. The study, "Government Fraud and Evidence Based Decision Making", was then repeated in December 2012, with a selection of additional questions.

The surveys were sent to a field of over 37,000 civil servants: the December 2011 study generated 837 responses, and the December 2012 study generated 838 responses. 29 per cent of respondents in the 2012 study were SCS or grade 6/7 senior civil servants.

About SAS

SAS is the leader in business analytics software and services, and the largest independent vendor in the business intelligence market. Through innovative solutions, SAS helps customers at more than 60,000 sites improve performance and deliver value by making better decisions faster. Since 1976 SAS has been giving customers around the world The Power to Know® .

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