House of Commons – Major Projects Authority – Public Accounts Committee

English: East entrance of HM Treasury Français...

English: East entrance of HM Treasury Français : Entrée Est de HM Treasury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is well worth a read, if you are interested in how the UK public sector is managing major projects. Check it out!

via House of Commons – Major Projects Authority – Public Accounts Committee.

Most articles on this subject have erroneously reported that the PAC is proposing more power for the MPA. However, the MPA argue:

 …….while central assurance functions should be strengthened and its recommendations listened to, any changes must ensure that accountability for projects remains with ministers, accounting officers and Senior Responsible Owners (SROs), and is not diluted.

As an expert in delivering strategic change, with extensive hands-on experience of leading and rescuing major projects in the public sector, I see matters slightly differently. Let me share some of my own insights.

Firstly, I think that there is too much assurance and indirect costs that are not directly creating value. Surely, if the Treasury does not act on the recommendations of the MPA, the effectiveness of the MPA is questionable?

Secondly, another reason for excessive costs is scope change and intervention arising from political meddling.

Thirdly, the Mandarins or accounting officers are frequently risk averse, compared to their private sector peers – indeed the latter would be rewarded on a success fee.

Fourthly, the so-called Senior Responsible Owners (SROs) typically do not have the stature and power to protect their projects.

Fifthly, individual program and project directors spend too much of their time scoring and form filling, rather than delivering.

Sixthly, major projects are still far too depend upon major consulting firms, outsource companies and technology providers because the public sector do not have the skills in-house. Skills were always a problem but thanks to excessive austerity, the brightest and the best have often taken the money and found careers outside the public sector.

This blog is focused on the UK but the challenges are the same in public sectors around the world and in particular with the European Commission.

Overall, the there is an absence of strategic thinking, so that decisions are fudged in the interests of political expediency.

With too much austerity, there is now a paramount need for enormous public investment. But here comes the rub!

Let me turn this to an open question:

Surely the tax-payers would get greater value for money if the whole public sector was outsourced, with the exception of policy and strategic services?

Any views?



One response

  1. Dr Alf is right.
    The public sector we now have, in the UK, is not fit for purpose; it’s unaffordable and is beyond any hope of meaningful reform, and certainly not by Big 4 consultants and people like McKinsey’s who have a vested interest in creating no meaningful change at all.
    The UK public sector has become self-serving, arrogant and incompetently run by a series of people who are happy to institutionalize waste. There is a complete lack of accountability when things go wrong and when malfeasance, fraud, failures and bad procurement practice are plain for all to see.
    By a process of osmosis over time, it has become a job creation scheme for an assorted ragbag of people who seem devoid of common-sense, business knowledge or any concept of what a country has to do to create real jobs, exports and prosperity.
    At the top of the food chain, we have Civil Service “Mandarins”, who were originally taught Latin and Greek, partly as a result of a “Classical Education” but I suggest primarily because of the ability that it gave them to confuse Ministers, more stupid than they were, and to come up with reasons why nothing should be done to solve a particular problem. “Yes Minister” is alive and well!
    In 1885, at the height of British Imperial power, there were just 15,000 civil servants – now the NHS alone is Europe’s largest employer and produces the worst cancer survival rates and treatment outcomes in Western Europe.
    Civil servants at the upper end of the spectrum seem to be contemptuous of the public, who they treat as “our sheep” or “the sheep” (people to be made to pay over the odds, lied to, fleeced and tricked into believing that the Government has achieved things when it has done no such thing). Some of them believe and are on the record as saying that they see their task as managing the UK’s decline as “gracefully as possible”. What they mean by this is that they have no strategies for reversing the decline; have given up on the public; and seek to accelerate the decline without too many people noticing.
    Currently the Big 4 run up a bill of £15.5 million gbp a year for public sector and local authority transformation yet the UK is 17th in the world for value per taxpayer pound and is delivering £1 gbp of value as compared to Singapore’s £3 gbp across all services. What about payment by results? That would shake up the political leaders, the bureaucrats, the Mandarins and their chums in supporting services, like technology, outsourcing, recruitment, consulting etc.
    The Singapore Government now has a program of selling its governance model to other countries so that these more enlightened countries can emulate the stunning success of that island state.
    The UK should look at how that country is run and apply the remorseless logic of Lee Quan Yew to the UK public sector, to overseas investment, defense, procurement, productivity, inward investment, education, the intelligence levels of the legislature and MPs and to immigration , crime, punishment and the approach to drug dealers.
    Over and above that, most of the UK’s institutions need to have a value for money test applied to them and those beyond their “sell by date” cut down to size, stripped of power or abolished.
    Policing, the judiciary and the prison service should remain in public hands but most other things should be put into outsourceable condition and then outsourced.
    Many civil servants, who are supposedly impartial, are like the dinosaurs in the film Jurassic Park, unnecessary relics of a bygone age. For them, the solution should be a full and frank conversation with an outplacement counselor.

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