Public accounts committee parting shot from Leigh

by Peter Smith on April 6, 2010

If you’re a glutton for public sector efficiency, procurement and performance, Edward Leigh’s parting open letter to his successor as Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts is well worth reading.  His “ten lessons learned” range from “Complexity impedes effective delivery” through to “Public scrutiny adds value” and are pithy and insightful.

I think he is on less firm ground when he gets into a section on benchmarking between Departments.  For instance, he says things like “If Department X could run IT as cost effectively as Department Y they could save £100 million”.  But not all Departments are the same; or need the same IT.  And in at least one case, his exemplar Department in one chosen area will bring snorts of disbelief to anyone who has worked in or with that Department.  They are not a role model anyone should aspire to; perhaps costs are low because they are cr*p in that area!

He also says that other Departments should have reduced headcount as fast as DWP and MOD without commenting on whether this has been a good thing for those Departments; anyway, there is no obvious logic as to why Departments should all cut costs at the same rate – it must depend on the work they are required to do, and is to some extent driven by external and policy issues, not pure efficiency?

But for all that, the letter is well worth reading and makes many good points that any new administration would do well to take on board.

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