Productivity commission report riddled with errors

The commission chairman blamed a tight deadline for factual inaccuracies in report about finding savings in the railway and postal service

A report with recommendations for improving the productivity of the postal service and the nation's railways is filled with errors, according to Berlingske newspaper.

The report was published by the government’s productivity commission, Produktivetskommission, whose job is to find savings in the public sector.

But a correspondence between Produktivetskommission and the Transport Ministry, which Berlingske accessed through a freedom of information request, revealed that the commission’s findings were based on factual inaccuracies.

“There is definitely a need to improve the productivity of the transport sector,” Transport Ministry spokesperson Jacob Heinsen told Berlingske. “That is why we had hoped the Produktivetskommission’s analyses would have been sharper.”

Among the errors found in the report was the recommendation to reduce the fees that freight transport pay to use the railway lines, arguing that it was double the fee paid in Germany. The Transport Ministry pointed out, however, that the fee is actually half of that paid in Germany.

The commission also used figures from 2007 to argue that the state-owned railway operator DSB could save up to 1.3 billion kroner a year through effectivising its service. The ministry responded that more recent figures include plans for DSB to save one billion kroner a year.

The commission also made errors relating to the Danish postal service, Post Danmark. They recommend improving competition by allowing private firms to deliver mail to locked stairwells, but the Transport Ministry responded that this was already permitted.

A recommendation for the Danish state to sell its shares in Post Danmark was also questioned, because the Danish state does not actually own shares in the company directly. In 2009, Post Danmark was merged with the Swedish postal service Posten AB. The two are owned by a holding company, PostNord, which is owned 40 percent by the Danish state and 60 percent by the Swedish state.

The transport spokepersons from a range of political parties criticised the Produktivetskommission after Berlingske’s revelations.

“These types of reports need to be checked and approved for quality,” Konservative spokesperson Mike Legarth told Berlingske. “These sorts of publications should not be accompanied with corrections. The recommendations they make need to be double checked and completely reliable. Otherwise, as a politician, I cannot use it.”

The commission chairman, Søren Birch Sørensen, explained that the errors, which have been corrected, were a result of tight deadlines which resulted in inadequate fact checking in one chapter of the report.

“But we have learned from it and will do everything we can do to ensure that it does not repeat itself,” Sørensen told Berlingske. “These types of errors are clearly unacceptable, but I must underline that they did not affect our recommendations.”

Spokesperson for Venstre, Kristian Pihl Lorentzen, agreed with Sørensen's assessment that the errors were small compared to the larger message and recommendations contained in the report.

“I get the impression that the Transport Ministry wants to bury the report, which is convenient because of the errors,” Lorentzen told Berlingske. “But I still believe that there are large benefits to be found by putting [more regional and inter-city railway lines] up for private tender.”

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