Ideas pitched by civil servants expected to save Manitoba government $191M over 10 years
'We're just getting started,' says finance minister at unveiling of money-saving innovations
The Manitoba government estimates it will save tens of millions of dollars over the next decade using ideas generated through an experiment designed to encourage civil servants to propose innovative ways to improve services and make them more efficient.
Aerial drones for conducting forest surveys, teleconferencing technology for departmental boardrooms, and an online training portal for Employment and Income Assistance recipients are among the 56 proposals approved for funding through the Transformation Capital Fund.
"These are the types of projects that are on the edge of people's desks. Things they've been thinking about for a while, but couldn't find a way to move them forward," said Fred Meier, head of Manitoba's public service.
Approved projects ranged from mundane matters like purchasing cell phones and iPads, to more experimental projects, like a proposal to construct purpose-built homes for a small number of adults with the most challenging intellectual disabilities within the Community Living Disability Services portfolio.
The province announced the $50-million fund last month as part of its mission to slash the budget deficit. The cost of implementing approved projects amounts to $21.2 million, but they are expected to save the province $191 million over the next 10 years.
At a news conference on Monday, Premier Brian Pallister and Finance Minister Cameron Friesen, along with Meier, released the list of projects approved so far in an effort to encourage more civil servants to come forward and claim a piece of the remaining $29 million.
"We're just getting started. We're keeping the program open. This is now part of our DNA as a government," said Friesen.
To get approved for funding, ideas must demonstrate an expected return on investment within four years.
Manitoba Sustainable Development submitted a proposal to use aerial drones instead of helicopters to monitor the growth of reforested areas.
"We're all aware of drones, we see them in other sectors. We've been anxious to get the out there and to utilize their sensors and do something more efficiently. This was a great opportunity to get that going," said Brad Epp, acting director of forestry and peatlands branch.
Purchasing the new equipment and training will cost about $90,000, but Epp expects the project to make a 130 per cent return on investment within the next few years.
The fund has received 80 applications in total so far, a response Pallister called "tremendous."
"Front-line civil servants wanted to be part of making the system work better for the people of Manitoba and this demonstrates at least on the initial uptake that there's real reason for optimism that we can do things better, smarter and in some cases faster," he said.
No civil servants will lose jobs as a result of implementing any of the approved ideas, Friesen said.
With files from Sean Kavanagh