FreeBalance: The Emerging Smart Government Frontier
Governments face "wicked problems" based on sustainable growth and digital technology transformation. Digital transformation is also an opportunity for smart governments to drive innovation. Public sector digital experiments, such as information portals are aimed at improving citizen services. But, citizens want more. Citizens deserve more. Expectations set by web digital leaders hint at the potential for smart government. However, technology alone can’t equate to smart government. The alignment of governance and technology innovation is necessary.
Effective public investment management and digital citizen participation are the major components that drive public sector digital transformation. Digital participation aligns government policy to citizen needs. Public investment management enables meeting multiple year sustainable government goals.
It is through FreeBalance that governments turn toward efficient fiscal management and citizen engagement innovation. Not just efficient, but FreeBalance powers fiscal management and citizen engagement solutions to be "smart" as well.
President and CEO, Manuel Pietra asserts, “Our smart management solutions follow three major ideologies—accountability, transparency, and good governance.” These principles form the bedrock for smart digital governance. “Since inception, we have remained committed to one thing— to make the world a better place by leveraging technology. These solutions enable governments to optimize operations, transform services, empower employees, and engage citizens.”
Headquartered in Ottawa, FreeBalance started the digital governance journey in 1984 as a company named LinKtek. LinKtek software enabled Government of Canada departments and agencies to improve fiscal controls and eliminate overspending.
LinKtek gained traction when public finance reform took hold in Canada in the 90s. LinKtek software supported reform including accrual accounting, multi-year budgeting, and fiscal transparency. During that period, Canada witnessed the greatest decrease in debt-to-GDP ratio among G7 countries.
In time, Canadian customers began calling the software "free balance". This is the term used to describe the amount left to spend from budgets.
Today, under the brand name FreeBalance, the firm works exclusively in government. The services and product portfolio focuses on transforming the entire governance cycles. Governments leverage FreeBalance to meet increasing demands and expectations of tech-savvy citizens.
Fiscal Management Transformed
Built using international standards and practices, FreeBalance solutions are ideally suited to smart and open governance. Smart governance often requires legislation changes and replacement of legacy systems. Governments recognize the potential of social, mobile, data, and cloud technologies to drive public sector transformation. Public sector organizations often need help from FreeBalance to overcome governance, planning, technology, infrastructure, and finance gaps.
Our smart management solutions follow three major ideologies— accountability, transparency, and good governance
Governments who overcome governance gaps are more apt to leverage transformation potential.
“Governments propel prosperity through smart public investments focused on citizen needs. We build enterprise software designed, with governments, and for governments. The FreeBalance Accountability Suite improves governance outcomes and citizen wellbeing. We support the entire government budget cycle,” says Pietra.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software supports financial, procurement, human resources, and performance management functions in the private sector. Meanwhile, Government Resource Planning (GRP) software provides similar functionality for the public sector. GRP includes uniquely government functions. In line with growing government interest in improving public investment management, the company offers the FreeBalance Accountability Suite, a commercial off-the-shelf GRP.
The FreeBalance Accountability Suite differs through its integrated and comprehensive support for the public investment lifecycle. Smart planning, financing, budgeting, and allocating functions improve government infrastructure decisions.
The suite includes modules for government performance management, public financial management, government receipts management, government treasury management, public expenditure management, and civil service management. Built on a unified framework, these modules provide seamless integration. The highly configured suite accelerates implementation. This enables progressive activation of advanced functions to support future reform.
“Our willingness to focus on broader, deeper, and faster government reform, with modern technology and government expertise has improved implementation success rates. It’s further accentuated due to the solutions’ lower total cost of ownership,” states Pietra.
Many government technology vendors offer specialized functions without visibility across the governance lifecycle. On the other hand, most ERP vendors lack seamless integration among acquired applications. Both options suffer from inconsistent fiscal controls and metadata across application suites. “We have unified metadata and management controls. All modules are budget-aware, providing real-time information about the budget situation,” mentions Pietra.
Fiscal Transparency Transformed
The unified FreeBalance GRP suite improves public fund management. The integration of government budget cycle from planning through reporting supports fiscal transparency. Government financial information, published in near real-time, improves citizen faith in government spending. Governments with fiscal silos encounter technology hurdles to support transparency. FreeBalance seamlessly integrates back-office and front-office GRP functions. FreeBalance Accountability Portals include budget, procurement, and public investment results transparency. These portals update automatically from the back-office FreeBalance GRP.
Manuel Pietra recalls an instance, where the Government of Timor-Leste, leveraged FreeBalance smart technology. The government wanted enhanced citizen engagement that leapfrogged developed countries. FreeBalance government technology to accelerate reform and growth drove fiscal transparency. The FreeBalance Transparency Portal provides Timor-Leste citizens with real-time access to government budget and expenditure information.
"Governments propel prosperity through smart public investments focused on citizen needs. We build enterprise software designed, with governments, and for governments. The FreeBalance Accountability Suite improves governance outcomes and citizen wellbeing. We support the entire government budget cycle."
Pietra adds, “This was followed by providing more transparency in government procurement.” Challenged by corruption in public procurement, the Government of Timor-Leste sought technology solutions. By leveraging the FreeBalance eProcurement Portal, the government integrated all public tenders with back-office procurement and commitment controls. Citizens and vendors can see the progress of all public procurement cycles. Interested individuals or organizations easily access, review, and download open government tenders. Winning bidders and contract amounts are published. Procurement transparency increases public scrutiny, while improving the value for public money spent.
The FreeBalance Results Portal tracks statuses of all public investments since 2012. Citizens can search projects by type, ministry, goal, and location. Information provided includes original objectives, budgets, and physical progress.
This portal demonstrates worldwide leadership by the Government of Timor-Leste, in transparency, trust, and accountability.
Engage Governments to Excel
Manuel Pietra believes that many technology and service vendors innovation approaches lack customer context. Every year, the firm presents a proposed roadmap at the FreeBalance International Steering Committee (FISC), an annual interactive forum. FreeBalance customers share governance improvement lessons at FISC. In-depth sessions cover government modernization, public service reform, and wellbeing policy. These sessions, and the roadmap interaction, help FreeBalance to predict emerging government needs. This customer-centric innovation helps the company to set future technology priorities. This includes improved user experience and enhanced deployment options.
With current offices across Canada, the US, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Portugal, Kosovo, Liberia, Uganda, the UK, India, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines, FreeBalance plans to further its global footprint by setting up offices at more locations. “Our aim is to propel our rich legacy forward and fulfill government’s needs not just by providing better automation and management capabilities but with an improved suite of products and advanced technology initiatives,” concludes Pietra.