OHRA – the project to reform the Government’s steering framework

Frequently asked questions

What is the biggest change proposed?

  • A key proposal developed in the course of the project is a new type of Government strategy framework. As a result, the Government’s strategy would be produced in two stages: when the Government Programme is prepared and immediately after that when the Government Action Plan is formulated.
  • The Government Programme would outline more broadly than before the key objectives, without specifying the actions to be taken in great detail.
  • The Government Programme would clearly identify the Government’s key policy objectives, of which there would be three to five in number. When the Government Action Plan is formulated, the parties involved would agree on concrete measures – ‘policy packages’ – which the Government as a whole would then pursue. At the same time, the Government Action Plan and the General Government Fiscal Plan would be harmonised and coordinated in terms of content and timelines to provide a single Government strategy.

What benefits are the reforms expected to generate?

  • When the Government’s key objectives are clearly defined and processes directed to support their attainment, it will be possible to secure the resources and momentum to achieve real change. Currently, too much administrative resources are expended on preparing decisions and too little on achieving real change.

What does a policy package mean?

  • Policy packages are policy instruments designed to help the Government achieve its main policy objectives. The packages will not be too extensive, such as ‘welfare’, nor will they be too narrow, project-like in nature. Their actual contents will be decided by the Government, but they could be, for example, major reforms or programmes.
  • For each policy package, the current situation, allocation of resources, measures to be taken, timeframes and responsibilities will be specified, as will the criteria for success and information needs. The packages will be prepared under political control.

Hasn’t this been tried before? Why would things be different this time?

The main differences compared with previous attempts are:

  • In the OHRA context, political control is highlighted in Government work. Moreover, during preparation, closer contacts are maintained with political decision-makers, who play the key role.
  • The reform is clearly based on a more strategic, new type of Government Programme.
  • The intention is to integrate the preparation of the Government Action Plan and the General Government Fiscal Plan, which calls for coordinated preparation between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Finance.
  • Lessons have been learned from the challenges associated with the policy programmes attempted earlier: now the policy packages are genuinely top of the Government’s agenda and supported by adequate appropriations. Ministerial working groups are appointed for the packages, and other ministerial groups would be set up only in exceptional cases.
  • During Katainen-Stubb parliamentary term, a strategic plan for the implementation of the Government Programme was formulated after the agreement of the programme. Since the planning was driven by civil servants, political decision-makers did not really embrace it as their own. This time, the objective is to create a process that is clearly under political control. At the same time, the goal is to have the civil service provide an extensive knowledge base offering optional sets of policy instruments to serve as a basis for decision-making.

Has a decision already been made to implement the proposals?

  • The key decisions regarding implementation are political in nature and will be made by the next Government. Central to the realisation of the proposals is the phase when the Government Programme is prepared. More precisely, the question is whether the next Government Programme will state clear policy objectives capable of being translated into policy packages.
  • More detailed preparations will be made on the practical implementation of the proposals, for example by starting work on the regulatory amendments required by the reform in spring 2015.

How will things proceed?

  • Minister Paula Risikko has established a follow-up project to define the proposals made by the OHRA Project in more detail.
  • How will the link between policy content and appropriation of funds be ensured?
  • The Government Action Plan and the General Government Fiscal Plan will be harmonised and coordinated in terms of content and timelines. The Government will give a single assignment for the preparation of the Government Action Plan with due consideration given to coordinating preparation of content and resources.
  • A secretariat, led by the State Secretary to the Prime Minister in collaboration with the State Secretary at the Ministry of Finance, will be created to coordinate the strategy process. The members of the secretariat will consist of civil servants from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Finance.
  • Preparations carried out by the ministries will be based on the integration referred to above. Efficient use will be made of the collective resources of the Permanent Secretaries in coordination efforts. The State Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office will serve as Chair of the Secretariat, with the State Secretary of the Ministry of Finance serving as Deputy Chair.

What reforms are proposed to improve the knowledge base in support of decision-making?

  • For the talks on the formation of the Government, extensive data on the general preconditions for its formation will be prepared, coordinated by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Finance.
  • The longer period of time (around 3 months) reserved for drawing up the Government Action Plan, to be prepared in addition to the Government Programme, will enable to the full use of these data in the preparations.
  • Funding earmarked for analysis, assessment and research in support of Government decision-making will be channelled, in particular, towards the information needs of the various policy packages.
  • Annually, a Government session will be held to address the situation picture, to ensure that in future data and information generated by the Government’s research efforts and strategic research can be utilised, with a special focus on the policy packages.
  • An expert unit will be set up in the Prime Minister’s Office with the main mission of ensuring that sound and adequate information is available to the Government and Parliament when decisions on key structural and other changes are made.