Lessons all organisations could learn from the Government’s COVID-19 response

17 August 2021

Published by: Dan Bonner, Senior Manager - Risk Advisory Services

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for governments, public sector entities and private companies alike. Important lessons can be learnt in terms of how to respond quickly, effectively and without creating unintended consequences.

In its May 2021 report, Initial learning from the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Audit Office (NAO) identified six recurring themes:

  • Risk management
  • Transparency and public trust
  • Data and evidence
  • Coordination and delivery models
  • Supporting and protecting people
  • Financial and workforce pressures.

The NAO highlighted the key challenges arising in government’s pandemic response and drew out important learning points. Although focused on the public sector, these learnings have widespread application. For example, the NAO highlights the importance of clarity about organisational risk appetite and risk tolerance being the basis for choosing which trade-offs should be made in emergencies. It emphasises the importance of accurate and complete data, which is essential for supporting and monitoring effective performance. It also recommends clarifying responsibilities for decision-making, implementation and governance, especially where delivery chains are complex and involve multiple actors.

At BDO, we recognise that the issues identified in the NAO report have been faced by many of our clients, across all sectors. We have therefore distilled the NAO’s findings into a practical summary, offering our own perspective on the lessons to be learnt. Organisations that take time to consider the issues raised can seek to enhance their operational effectiveness and resilience in the face of any future major disruptive events. Our summary document can be accessed here

For more information on the subject please get in touch with Robert Noye-Allen and Sarah Hillary.