26 May 2006 | Paul Snell
Office of Government Commerce (OGC) chiefs appeared before a cross-party committee of MPs last week to be quizzed about the OGC's annual report.
Senior civil servants questioned by the treasury sub-committee included John Oughton, chief executive, deputy chief executive Peter Fanning, and Hugh Barrett, chief executive of the OGC's commercial arm OGCbuying.solutions.
They were asked how the OGC was implementing its efficiency programme following recommendations from the Gershon report. They were also invited to assess the OGC's progress in delivering a high level of service to government.
Oughton said he believed the OGC has made good progress during his two years as chief executive and he expected to see "continuous improvement" in delivering the efficiency programme across government.
Conservative MP Brooks Newmark said he did not share the OGC's confidence that it would be able to reduce costs and expressed concern that costs had actually risen in some departments such as the Cabinet Office during the last financial year. He said that there seemed to be a "slightly cavalier attitude" to reducing administration spend.
Oughton responded: "I am not saying, 'Don't worry, mañana. We will deal with this.' I am saying that plans were set out and committed to in the efficiency programme we monitor, and we need to be satisfied that they are being delivered."
On the subject of reducing the number of civil servants working in central government, Oughton told the committee that the OGC was "well on track". When Conservative MP Peter Viggers raised reports of employee increases in both the Home Office and Department for Transport, Oughton said he still expected the reductions to be met by the end of the three-year efficiency programme, and the OGC was monitoring the situation closely.