Do we serve Finnish bureaucrats or do they serve us?

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Karmalite
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Do we serve Finnish bureaucrats or do they serve us?

Post by Karmalite » Fri Mar 10, 2017 5:38 pm

Hello,

The Tampere-based private International Early Education Center (IEEC) for many years has been providing daycare and pre-school services in English. Recently, completely unexpectedly for the parents, the local administration has decided that the IEEC is still a trustworthy supplier of the daycare services, but it will not be serving as a pre-school education provider in Tampere during the school year 2017-2018. The meeting held on March 9th, 2017 between the parents, the IEEC representatives and the official representatives of the local administration revealed a huge gap in the parents’ vs. the officials’ assessments of the quality of the IEEC services. The majority of parents expressed the satisfaction and the high appreciation of the education and the care provided. The local administration representatives spoke in general about a number of deficiencies, however, no clear fact base was presented to parents. Nobody asked the opinion of the IEEC parents before making the negative decision. As far as we understand, the offered substitute is the municipal preschool. The parents believe the decision is a mistake, so they are joining their efforts in order to challenge the grounds for the decision.

To put it straightforwardly: we are facing now the situation when the local administration on our behalf with our taxpayers' money plans to buy for our children a service, which we would not choose ourselves, and rejects, for a completely non-transparent reason, to buy for our children the service of our trusted provider. Is it legal? Is it fair? Please advise.

1. What is the most efficient way in Finland to make the local administration to take the taxpayers’ point of view into account shortly? We do not want to stress our kids with a transfer to another place, we are absolutely happy with the current one. Can anybody share a Finnish or a relevant international experience on this matter?
2. The grounds for the decision making is absolutely non-transparent for the parents. How to make the local administration to disclose the official justification of the negative decision regarding the IEEC.
3. Can any independent body help the parents to verify the grounds for the decisions made and the legitimacy of the procedure?
4. Do you think the open letters to the key newspapers and the open public discussion would help better since the issue of the transparency of the bureaucratic decisions is goes far beyond the IEEC case?

Your help will be appreciated very much. The normal life of the IEEC families is very much troubled.



Do we serve Finnish bureaucrats or do they serve us?

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rinso
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Re: Do we serve Finnish bureaucrats or do they serve us?

Post by rinso » Fri Mar 10, 2017 7:27 pm

The organization of the pre-school activity is a responsibility of the municipality. They can decide who gets the money and perform the service. Or they can decide that the municipality does it self. The ultimate decision is made by the board of representatives of the municipality. The people you can elect next month.
It seems that the decision is already made (probably during the budget meetings in November or December). To be realistic. it will be impossible to reverse the decision for the coming school year.
If you want to do something about it, talk with the representatives and convince them to reverse the decision. (and vote for the ones that are supporting your case)
1. What is the most efficient way in Finland to make the local administration to take the taxpayers’ point of view into account shortly?
Vote for the right people.
How to make the local administration to disclose the official justification of the negative decision regarding the IEEC.
Read the meeting reports from the municipality. Although they might not reveal the underlying discussions.
4. Do you think the open letters to the key newspapers and the open public discussion would help better since the issue of the transparency of the bureaucratic decisions is goes far beyond the IEEC case?
The municipality meetings are open to everyone. I don't think the newspapers (or the general public) will find it very interesting that a group of foreigners didn't realize what was going on. If there is a more structural problem in Tampere, the newspapers will report it themselves. (they do visit the meetings and read the minutes and better understand what is going on.)

This is something that is going on all over Finland. Since health/social care has become a regional responsibility, the municipalities now focus on the remaining tasks. And that can mean less outsourcing.


Karmalite
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Re: Do we serve Finnish bureaucrats or do they serve us?

Post by Karmalite » Sat Mar 11, 2017 8:31 pm

rinso wrote:The municipality meetings are open to everyone. I don't think the newspapers (or the general public) will find it very interesting that a group of foreigners didn't realize what was going on.
In fact, the majority of the IEEC families are the Finnish families. They are not happy with the decision too and definitely "didn't realize what was going on" too.

Thanks a lot for the comments. If we want to follow the meeting reports from the municipality, what Finnish words should be used in the Internet search?


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rinso
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Re: Do we serve Finnish bureaucrats or do they serve us?

Post by rinso » Sun Mar 12, 2017 6:55 am

If we want to follow the meeting reports from the municipality, what Finnish words should be used in the Internet search?
The easiest thing is to go to the town hall and ask for the minutes of the relevant meetings and the underlying proposals. I bet a secretary could quickly find them for you. You might have to pay for copies or read them there.
The decision might be combined with other items so a keyword search can be difficult.
The general information (agenda) of the counsel meetings you probably can find on the municipalities webpage. And they publish the agenda in the local newspaper.


Karmalite
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Re: Do we serve Finnish bureaucrats or do they serve us?

Post by Karmalite » Sun Mar 12, 2017 8:50 am

Thank you so much! The information obtained on this forum is so valuable! No idea where from it can be obtained otherwise. Could you please also clarify:
rinso wrote:The municipality meetings are open to everyone.
Are visitors allowed to provide comments at the meetings, ask questions or present relevant documents?
rinso wrote:The easiest thing is to go to the town hall and ask for the minutes of the relevant meetings and the underlying proposals. I bet a secretary could quickly find them for you. You might have to pay for copies or read them there.
Does it mean the minutes and agendas of forthcoming meetings are definitely not online?


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rinso
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Re: Do we serve Finnish bureaucrats or do they serve us?

Post by rinso » Sun Mar 12, 2017 10:14 am

Are visitors allowed to provide comments at the meetings, ask questions or present relevant documents?
No. They might allow it in comity meetings. But that depends on the chairman.
If you want to be sure of your input, you have to address the counsel members privately.
Does it mean the minutes and agendas of forthcoming meetings are definitely not online?
It depends on the municipality. Bigger cities like Tampere might keep them for some time on their website, but they don't have to.


Rosamunda
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Re: Do we serve Finnish bureaucrats or do they serve us?

Post by Rosamunda » Sun Mar 12, 2017 12:45 pm

Have the owners received any information regarding the reasons for closure? There may be financial issues, hygiene issues, staffing problems etc that neither the owners or the municipal authorities wish to share. I would suggest that it is the owners of the establishment who should be providing you with the information.

I think the usual lobbying channels could be used: Petitions, local newspapers and radio. If you feel strongly about it then just exhaust all possible avenues to voice your discontent. Surely somebody knows somebody who works for the municipality...

As it is a private service, I wonder if you could contact the ombudsman.


Karmalite
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Re: Do we serve Finnish bureaucrats or do they serve us?

Post by Karmalite » Mon Mar 13, 2017 9:59 am

rinso wrote:If there is a more structural problem in Tampere, the newspapers will report it themselves. (they do visit the meetings and read the minutes and better understand what is going on.)
When journalists visit the local administration meetings they hear just one party. When other parties are considered, the picture changes dramatically in the IEEC case, as the parents-municipality meeting on March 9th has shown.

The parents (both Finnish and expat) consider the IEEC to be the best option for their children, it is not easy to get a place there. The municipality considers it to be the worst and rejects it. It is a "the parents' best - the municipality's worst" paradox.
Rosamunda wrote:Have the owners received any information regarding the reasons for closure? There may be financial issues, hygiene issues, staffing problems etc that neither the owners or the municipal authorities wish to share. I would suggest that it is the owners of the establishment who should be providing you with the information.
The information was presented to parents orally by the administration representatives in a very unstructured way, no statistical comparisons with the other service providers were made. So, for the IEEC parents the reasons are still non-transparent.

1. Is the "the parents' best - the municipality's worst" paradox phenomena worthy of public/journalists attention? Or is it common? Or is it negligibly important?
2. The parents are forced now to transfer their kids to other places, i.e. to make a new choice. Do parents have the right to request the comparative statistics on how the municipality sees the other service providers in the light of the criteria used for the IEEC rejection? What is the best way to do this?


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rinso
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Re: Do we serve Finnish bureaucrats or do they serve us?

Post by rinso » Mon Mar 13, 2017 10:49 am

When journalists visit the local administration meetings they hear just one party. When other parties are considered, the picture changes dramatically in the IEEC case, as the parents-municipality meeting on March 9th has shown.
You can inform the press beforehand of such a meeting. If they expect it to be newsworthy they'll come.
(of course when you're blindsided with the information you're probably already fighting a loosing battle.)
As for the counsels meetings, they read the agenda and dig into it deeper if there are controversial subjects.
If it was a controversial subject you may expect some counsel members raising questions and starting a discussion in the counsel meeting.
The newspapers don't make the news, they just report it.
The information was presented to parents orally by the administration representatives in a very unstructured way, no statistical comparisons with the other service providers were made. So, for the IEEC parents the reasons are still non-transparent.
I still suspect it was a pure budget based decision. But nobody anticipated the fierce reaction and they just improvised.
Do parents have the right to request the comparative statistics on how the municipality sees the other service providers in the light of the criteria used for the IEEC rejection?
Off course. Just ask city hall. Reports prepared for the city counsel are public.
But they might not exist. Or they might be just a few lines in a budget proposal.


Karmalite
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Re: Do we serve Finnish bureaucrats or do they serve us?

Post by Karmalite » Mon Mar 13, 2017 7:17 pm

rinso wrote:(of course when you're blindsided with the information you're probably already fighting a loosing battle.)
rinso wrote:But nobody anticipated the fierce reaction and they just improvised.
Of course, it is very difficult for the parents to keep absolutely calm in this situation, but, nevertheless, we do our bests to stick to the facts in this discussion and avoid emotions. Presumably, for the people, who are not touched by this situation personally, it is easier to avoid emotional and ungrounded judgements. So, please, keep calm and fact based.

Rinso, how do you know that the reaction was "fierce"? Did you attend the meeting on the March 9th?
rinso wrote:The newspapers don't make the news, they just report it.
There are different newspapers and different journalists. Some of them just report the news, others see the professionalism and the active and responsible citizen's position in helping the society to self-reflect.
rinso wrote:Reports prepared for the city counsel are public.
But they might not exist. Or they might be just a few lines in a budget proposal.
If a ready report does not exist, what is the probability that it will be put together on taxpayers' request? Is it a total zero?


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rinso
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Re: Do we serve Finnish bureaucrats or do they serve us?

Post by rinso » Tue Mar 14, 2017 7:29 am

Rinso, how do you know that the reaction was "fierce"? Did you attend the meeting on the March 9th?
I have been involved in similar processes (closing of schools). I suspected the reactions of the parents to be comparable.
(and fierce doesn't equal uncontrolled emotions)
There are different newspapers and different journalists. Some of them just report the news, others see the professionalism and the active and responsible citizen's position in helping the society to self-reflect.
I think all newspapers will help the society. But they have different thresholds for doing so. I just think that for most newspapers this is not something they want to campaign for. If you find a journalist who cares, treasure him.
If a ready report does not exist, what is the probability that it will be put together on taxpayers' request? Is it a total zero?
Here is a scenario that might have happened:
Memo from Chief of finance to pre-school coordinator:
Find some budget cuts.
Memo from pre-school coordinator to chief of finance:
I looked into the matter. The IEEC has a higher cost per child than the other institutions. Closing it would solve the problem.Since it concerns a limited number of children the other places could accept them.
And then this idea becomes a few lines in the municipalities budget proposal.
The memo might be an official report (which you could try to get) or it could be no more than a few e-mails (which you won't get). If they want to be helpful, they might give you a short overview of the arguments (A4 size) but they will not write a new report. The decision is already made and they don't have to make up things to defend themselves.

You really need to find out when the decision was made and in what context. Based on my own experience I think it is a budget matter. But as Rosamonde pointed out, it could also be health and safety related. Although then the IEEC would have been warned beforehand.


Karmalite
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Re: Do we serve Finnish bureaucrats or do they serve us?

Post by Karmalite » Tue Mar 14, 2017 11:38 am

rinso wrote:Based on my own experience I think it is a budget matter. But as Rosamonde pointed out, it could also be health and safety related.
No, the local administration representatives did not mention budget issues at all at the meeting with parents. They talked about filed complaints from parents and personnel, but in a very loose manner, no comparative statistics with the accepted providers. So, the "parent's best - municipality's worst" paradox is actual. Paradoxes chasing quite often lead to insights, so worth doing.

The quality and reliability of the decisions based on comparisons increase if an internal double-checking is practiced. I.e., if one clerk or one group prepares and analyses documents, then another person or group performs the independent consideration before the decision is made. This helps to reduce the impact of the human factor.

Is double-checking in analyzing comparisons practiced in municipalities?


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rinso
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Re: Do we serve Finnish bureaucrats or do they serve us?

Post by rinso » Tue Mar 14, 2017 12:27 pm

No, the local administration representatives did not mention budget issues at all at the meeting with parents. They talked about filed complaints from parents and personnel,
If they want to reduce costs, they have to find a way to distinguish between the different institutions. What the parents think is often not known and it is not good quantifiable data. Instead they look at costs per child, future projections, recorded complains and so on.
The normal procedure with complains is to evaluate them and see if there are possibilities for improvement. Not to shut down a facility without prior discussions.
It is also not smart to tell parents "we had to cut costs and we randomly chose the IEEC". They'll try some other argument.

Find the city counsel decision and work your way back from there. At this moment the city counsel is the only one who could do something about it. (You have to wait till after the elections and after the new members are settled and tasks appointed. So don't expect any discussion before September)


Rosamunda
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Re: Do we serve Finnish bureaucrats or do they serve us?

Post by Rosamunda » Tue Mar 14, 2017 1:28 pm

But if the IEEC is private why would the local municipality have concerns about its cost efficiency? The parents are paying...
Has anyone actually written to the head of department at the town council and asked for an explanation? Do you have a parent association (ry)?


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rinso
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Re: Do we serve Finnish bureaucrats or do they serve us?

Post by rinso » Tue Mar 14, 2017 2:21 pm

But if the IEEC is private why would the local municipality have concerns about its cost efficiency?
Since the pre-school activity is a responsibility of the municipality, they probably pay some of the costs. (I don't know the details in Tampere)
If there are no financial connections, then the problem has to be health and safety. But again, a decision without option for improvement first, is weird. And if it is so critical not to start an improvement plan, why leave it open till the next season?

There is also an other option:
If there is suspicion/indication of fraud there is reason to stop with the institute. You will not get any solid information, there is no (public) paper trail and counsel members will only get limited information (confidential).
I'm just speculating, but I look for explanations why you cannot get good information and what you get is controversial.


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