This week I am giving over my weekly blog to the publication of a White Paper that I wrote in April after consultation with colleagues.
For the readers convenience, I am restating the underlying problem below:
The Government is asking the Public Sector (both Central and Local Government) to cut costs significantly to substantially reduce the budget deficit before the next election. Secondly, the Government has an ambitious Reform Agenda that will probably impact every Government department and local authority.
Effective reform normally requires vision, political will, public support, leadership and effective transformation – with sustained momentum and huge intensification of effort. With Public Sector organizations likely to be weakened by the cuts, there is a very high risk that they will struggle with the transformation programmes required to deliver the Reform Agenda.
In the past, the Public Sector would have turned to consultants, contractors and professional interims to augment their own resources to help implement major transformation programs.
As part of its austerity measures to cut costs, the Cabinet Office introduced blanket controls on all consultants, contractors and professional interims. These controls require a valid business case, plus ministerial and Cabinet Office approval. In the short-term, these controls have been effective in reducing costs. Within the Professional Interim (“PI”) industry, these controls have become known as the “Catch 22 controls” (“Catch 22”) because a PI or consultant is often required to help draft the business case.
The Public Sector will need to turn to the major outsourced services providers and big consultancies to deliver the programs to deliver the Reform Agenda. Despite protracted procurement and contract negotiation processes, these large firms will be ultimately be motivated to look after their own commercial interests. Unfortunately, as many National Audit Office publications show, there is a poor record of major technology and transformation programmes in the Public Sector – indeed that record was established in more normal times, rather than exceptional times.
This White Paper argues that the selective removal of the Cabinet Office’s Catch 22 controls, and the limited deployment of PIs, working client-side alongside Public Sector managers, would be in the national interest. It will also support the Government’s Small Business and Enterprise agenda.