US federal agencies share broadband data; UK says legacy IT hindered benefit increase; Singapore reviews COVID-19 response: policy & delivery news in brief

By on 19/05/2022 | Updated on 19/05/2022
A picture of the skyline of Singapore at dusk
The skyline of Singapore. Photo: Brandon Lim/Flickr Used under Creative Commons

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Singapore government launches review of COVID-19 response

The former head of the Singapore civil service is to oversee a review of the country’s early response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Peter Ho will oversee what the government is calling an “after-action review” looking at the initial response from the start of 2021 to August of that year.

The co-chair of the country’s COVID-19 task force Lawrence Wong, who is also the country’s finance minister, said Ho had been given “all information with regard to the government’s response” for him to do a “thorough exercise in reviewing” the response.

The aim was to achieve “wide-ranging” lessons, including “how we can be more resilient as a nation, how we can improve our supply chains, how we can improve our national resiliency in a broad range of areas”, Wong said.

US federal agencies to better coordinate broadband subsidies

Three arms of the US federal government – the Federal Communications Commission, Department of Agriculture, and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration – have agreed to share information on how they support broadband development across the country.

The agencies have signed a deal with the Treasury to share “information about and collaborate regarding the collection and reporting of certain data and metrics relating to broadband deployment”.  

This will include sharing information in the support of broadband development using standard protocols and reporting processes to help maximise value for money.

UK chancellor says IT system scuppered benefits increase

UK chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak has said that the government was unable to increase its long-planned benefits increase to match inflation due to the old technology used to make some payments.

Benefits were uprated by 3.1% in April, in line with the government policy to base the annual increase on the rate of CPI inflation in the previous September.

However, since then inflation has risen sharply – it now stands at 9% – and Sunak has faced pressure to increase benefits to match the rise.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Sunak said that the IT system for making payments meant the planned increase could not be revised.

“The operation of our welfare system is technically complicated,” he said. “Many of the systems are built so it can only be done once a year, and the decision was taken quite a while ago.”

The UK has undergone a decade-long welfare reform, combining a number of single benefits into one payment, called Universal Credit. Although this is built on a more modern system, many benefit recipients have not yet been moved to the new system, leaving legacy payments on an older IT system.

Sunak admitted that it “sounds like an excuse” to blame the technology but insisted he was “constrained somewhat by the operation of the welfare system”.

About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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