Quote of the week
“Departments have tended to lack a clear strategic vision of what they are there to do.”
— UK National Audit Office
The U.K. government public sector reforms, as outlined in the 2011 Open Public Services White Paper, are very similar to the direction taken by our federal government as its transforms the public service.
Essentially, the White Paper calls for smaller, more strategic government that uses other sectors to do much of its work.
A recent review from the National Audit Office suggests that “more radical approaches” to cost cutting and reform are needed, and has some telling criticisms referring to “fundamental management weaknesses” in the U.K. public service.
The comments should resonate this side of the Atlantic:
First, government departments aren’t sure what they are supposed to be doing. Therefore, they find it hard to figure out how to save money doing it.
Second, because there is very little financial and non-financial management data available, it is hard for government to tell whether it’s getting value for money.
Third, there is little coordination and helpful direction from the centre. In other words, the corporate role of the public service is lacking.
Fourth, accountability is unclear, and the arrangements for it are outdated, frustrating both Parliamentarians and citizens.
Fifth, a cultural change is needed if joined up government is to work and save the money it’s supposed to. Departments keep falling back into siloed approaches and accountabilities.
Finally, and most damning, the report says that the “civil service lacks the skills it needs to deliver modern government.” The skills needed in a world of digital service delivery and commercial relationships with other sectors aren’t there, and nor is the appropriate talent being recruited.
Altogether, this is not a good message for the progress of government reform in the U.K. Perhaps there are some lessons for us here.
You can find the report at http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/1213/civil_service_reform_plan.aspx