Scrutiny in public sector ‘struggling’

24 Apr 18

Public sector scrutiny “struggles to keep up” with the “increased complexity of modern government”, according to a think-tank.

The collapse of construction contractor Carillion showed the government’s failure to effectively evaluate the use of private providers in the public sector, the discussion paper released by the Institute for Government yesterday also said.

Five million public sector workers were responsible for delivering services, the IFG noted, but still “there are weaknesses in the UK’s system of accountability, which often struggles to keep up with the realities of modern government both nationally and locally”.

Because government has failed to keep pace with the “increased complexity of modern government”, it has not properly scrutinised public-private partnerships’ value for money, Accountability in modern government added.

The think-tank suggested often in government accountability is replaced by a “pervading culture of blame”.

This culture, the think-tank argued, has been evident in the roll out of Universal Credit – which combines six working-age benefits in one - and more recently in the Windrush immigration cases.

The IfG said: “While accountability certainly involves apportioning blame when something goes wrong, it should also foster an environment that lead to improvement.

“This is what the public cares most about- preventing failures recurring, rather than simple retribution.”

Benoit Guerin, a senior researcher at the Institute for Government, said: “Accountability helps people know how the government is doing and where to go when things go wrong.

“A lack of accountability is worrying because it increases the risk of failure and decreases legitimacy of the state in the eyes of the public.”

He said the IFG hoped to start a debate on how accountability in the public sector could be strengthened with the aim of making recommendations for reform.

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