Even under the prevailing exceptional circumstances, amid one of the most serious crises of modern times, we in Finland have been able to rely on effective and efficient governance. The ministries, agencies and institutions have taken decisions rapidly and reliably to ensure continuity in central government operations.
At the same time, preparations have continued to enable decisions safeguarding a better future. Central government in Finland is worth its weight in gold.
Generally speaking, central government has succeeded extremely well in adjusting its operations. The crisis was best tackled by the actors that had anticipated and prepared for disruptions and exceptional circumstances during normal circumstances. However, all actors benefit from strong internal networks within the public administration and more open sharing of information. Direct interaction and mutual solidarity are cornerstones of good governance.
It is the duty of the National Audit Office, in due time, to carry out an overall examination of the decisions and measures taken during the exceptional circumstances. We are currently preparing for this.
The corona crisis made us take the digital leap we had long prepared for
Cross-sectoral cooperation based on digitalization and open sharing of information has been planned and prepared for a long time. Now, during the crisis, this has become a necessary way of working to enable efficient operations. By now at least, the digital leap has become reality.
In practice, the changeover to remote working took place overnight. This would not have been possible without technological and cultural preparedness. After some initial difficulties, the centralized ICT services of central government have operated quite well, and new routines have been developed for large-scale teleworking both within agencies and in cross-sectoral networks.
COVID response teams have kept monitoring the situation from the perspective of work, the employees, and also the information and service users. Major efforts have been centred on providing information and supporting the employees’ mental stamina. In the exceptional circumstances, communications and HR functions have made special efforts, come up with ideas, and tried out new ways of supporting the employees and objectives of central government. ICT services, in turn, are in the front line when it comes to analysing and responding to the widespread needs. The orientation of newcomers has been adjusted according to the restrictions on physical presence following the coronavirus outbreak. Everyone keeps learning.
Central government operations are built on the ethos of common interest and competence
The ministries and the agencies and institutions operating under them have, in an extremely tight time frame and with limited human resources, been preparing historical decisions, acts that require broad expertise, completely new kinds of support forms and aid, and related systems and services. This reflects both a passionate ethos of the common service function and personal sacrifices.
A strong commitment to work and objectives, flexibility and humility in the face of new situations, and confidence in your own and your colleagues’ competence are virtues that have kept our central government operational. There has been no sense of chaos or paralysis.
It has also required an ability to accept that, in this situation, the best quality is ‘sufficiently good’. Although an expert may find it frustrating, it is not possible to strive for perfection amid a crisis.
People who keep giving their best and go the extra mile, sacrificing their own comfort, do valuable work that is not seen in headlines. Without them, our society would not be as robust and stable. A big thank you to our well-functioning central government.