Demands grow for independent review into PFI

23 Jan 03
The government is coming under increasing pressure to launch a wide-ranging review of the Private Finance Initiative, following the publication of last week's critical Audit Commission report into schools' PFI.

24 January 2003

The commission found that PFI schools are not necessarily built more cheaply or more quickly than those procured through traditional means. It said that high-performing councils should be allowed to explore non-PFI funding options.

Speaking at a seminar on the issue, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis called for an independent and comprehensive review into the PFI. He was revisiting a demand originally made by trade unions at last year's Labour Party conference.

'The government must listen to the mounting criticism of the PFI from all quarters of society. If they can launch an investigation into "spin doctors" they can do the same for the PFI – a far more important issue,' he said.

Prentis criticised the 'culture of secrecy' around the PFI and demanded an investigation into the roles of accountants, advisers and lawyers in PFI projects. 'Is it right that an accountancy firm can make millions from advising government, millions from advising the consortia and then audit the books?'

Other speakers at the seminar, including Public Finance's deputy editor Karen Day, highlighted the need for an in-depth investigation. This could be undertaken either by the Audit Commission, the National Audit Office or a combination of the two.

Last December, the Institute for Public Policy Research also called for an independent inquiry into the PFI. It said that only 6% of PFI projects have been independently audited to see if they offered value for money.


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