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KPMG benchmarking compares city service efficiency

KPMG benchmarking report compares city service efficiency and effectiveness

Jennifer Samuel

Director, Global Communications

KPMG International


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New KPMG benchmarking report compares city service efficiency and effectiveness, and how capturing the right data makes all the difference

City governments are spending strikingly different amounts to deliver basic city services, even within the same region, according to Benchmarking city services: Finding the courage to improve, a new report from KPMG International.

The KPMG report summarizes the findings of an in-depth benchmarking survey involving 35 cities around the world. Twelve basic city services were reviewed, including road access, transit, park access, garbage collection, and drinking water supply, among others.

The report reveals that some cities might be inefficient and spending too much for the services they deliver. One city reported that 100 percent of their roads were in “good condition” – virtually impossible to achieve. For example, one city reported that 65 percent of its drinking water is lost from the time it enters the treatment facility, to the time it is supplied. Some cities report spending two to three times the average for the same services, while others are not collecting reliable data to make relevant service-related comparisons.

“We were surprised to see such variation in the reported costs across cities in our survey. Within the EU alone, some cities spend five times as much as others for basic services such as drinking water,” noted Alan Mitchell, author of the study and Executive Director of KPMG International’s Cities Global Center of Excellence. “There are numerous factors we observed to be contributing to such variation. For starters, each city sets its own service levels and those can differ substantially. Further, there isn’t a global standard for collecting and disseminating service costs so comparisons may include expensive processes in one city but not in another.”

Moreover, the benchmarking report also found that cities are challenged in having a clear understanding of the actual efficiency and effectiveness of the services they deliver. One city reported that 100 percent of their roads were in “good condition” – virtually impossible to achieve. The study could have included many other cities but the authors note that numerous cities dropped out when they discovered they were unable to generate basic data critical to measuring service outputs. However, such a finding further points to the need for a common framework for measuring services.

“What we found was a real lack of information at the decision-making level. And that means that city leaders are left making budget and investment decisions based on little more than a few historic trends and gut feel,” added Steve Beatty, KPMG’s Global Head of Cities. “In today’s fiscal environment, that’s just not good enough.”

Unlike other city benchmarking exercises, the KPMG report focused on comparing tangible efficiency and effectiveness measures such as cost, quality and service value for specific city services. Within the report, the authors compare the participating cities’ results to help city leaders identify ‘average’ costs for basic city services around the world.

“Cities are complex service delivery organizations – each with different priorities, climates and other challenges. They require a wide range of differing skills in order to deliver the range of services they offer” said Beatty.

“Knowing how you rank against comparable cities may be important in some respects, but this was not the intent of the study. City leaders also want to find solutions and ideas that can help them improve the way they plan, deliver and measure city services. The cities showcased in our report demonstrate that innovation is alive and well at the municipal levels of government.”

The study also explores new approaches, innovations and models now being tested and applied in cities around the world – practical lessons that can be shared with other cities. Leveraging specific examples from Europe, Asia and the Americas, the report aims to help city leaders think differently about the way they manage city service delivery.

Not all cities that were initially approached were able to participate in the study, in many instances simply because they did not have the requested data readily available. “Those that were able to participate allowed us to start creating a much clearer and more consistent view of what ‘good’ might look like in services delivery”, noted Beatty. KPMG’s Cities Global Center of Excellence intends to repeat the benchmarking exercise on a regular basis. “This is the start of a journey to better understanding effective and efficient city service delivery. We encourage representatives of cities around the world to review the study and compare their own data against the results.”

About the report

KPMG’s Cities Global Center of Excellence has undertaken a service benchmarking study with 35 cities around the world to identify how well they are performing in the delivery of 12 services. Benchmarking city services: Finding the courage to improve is part of KPMG’s focus to provide relevant research as to how a specific city is performing relative to other cities. The purpose for city benchmarking is not necessarily to measure winners and top performers, but rather to discover better practices of delivering services and allow for deeper, more meaningful research about why certain cities are more efficient and effective in the delivery of their services.

To provide additional context, the report also includes insightful interviews with industry leaders as well as individuals from KPMG’s global network of infrastructure and city professionals.

City services benchmarked in this report:

  • Road access 
  • Transit 
  • Small and medium enterprise development 
  • Building permit and enforcement 
  • Park access 
  • Recreational facility access 
  • Drinking water supply 
  • Wastewater removal 
  • Storm water drainage 
  • Fire rescue 
  • Garbage collection 
  • Waste diversion and recycled waste collection

For information, contact:

Jennifer Samuel

KPMG International

+416 777 8491

About KPMG International

KPMG is a global network of professional services firms providing Audit, Tax, and Advisory services. We operate in 155 countries and have 174,000 people working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.

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