NAO prefers process to outcomes

29 Nov 01
A senior business leader has accused the National Audit Office of failing to play its full part in improving standards in public services.

30 November 2001

Charles Cox, chair of the CBI's modernising government committee, has criticised the public spending watchdog for emphasising 'process' at the expense of outcomes when inspecting public bodies.

He called on the NAO, and its Parliamentary counterpart the Public Accounts Committee, to force the public sector to accept responsibility for raising standards.

Cox told Public Finance that this cultural change was crucial if the government were to meet its pledge to create world-class services.

'The NAO needs to create an environment where public bodies are being held to account for creating added value and not just for following rules. It is not moving in that direction,' he said.

An NAO spokesman rejected the criticisms. 'Every year, as our key stakeholders in Parliament and audited bodies would acknowledge, we publish a wide range of reports that go right to the heart of public service outcomes.'

The businessman was speaking at a public-private partnerships conference, organised by the Office of Government Commerce and the CBI. He demanded that public bodies be required to provide value for money, as are private sector companies involved in PPPs.

'There is no reason why the value measure should be restricted to the private sector. Given the amount of public resources tied up in public service delivery, it is vital the same process is applied to the public sector.'

Cox also criticised the government for not offering enough strategic support to public bodies.


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