Government failing to manage outsourced contracts, MPs claim

Friday, 14 March 2014

The government is failing to manage contracts with a host of private companies delivering a range of services to departments and members of the public, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) claims in a new report.

According to the Financial Times (registration, free, required) problems all too often only come to light when whistleblowers raise the alarm, rather than as a result of effective contract management by civil servants and ministers. The paper notes:

'The select committee said initial outsourcing deals used to be relatively straightforward... But the private sector has increasingly been asked to provide more complex contracts, involving the implementation of new policies.'

The PAC lists 'five areas of improvement':

  1. Transparency: There needs to be far greater visibility to government, parliament and the public about suppliers’ performance, costs, revenues and profits.
  2. Contract management and delivery: Central government’s management of private sector contracts has too often been very weak.
  3. Competition: There is not enough effective competition in the market for government business.
  4. Capability: Government does not currently have the expertise to extract the greatest value from contracting to private providers.
  5. Public service standards: Contractors have not consistently demonstrated the high ethical standards expected in the conduct of public business.

The Guardian quotes the chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge, as saying that the Department for Work and Pensions is facing 'meltdown' over the delivery of welfare changes.

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