11 October 2007 | Paul Snell
There are "question marks" over nearly three-quarters of the government's claimed efficiency savings, according to MPs.
The Committee of Public Accounts' (PAC) second review into the efficiency programme said the government's claim to have saved £13.3 billion by September 2006 "does not stand up to close scrutiny". Earlier this week the chancellor claimed savings had now reached £20 billion.
Yet the PAC report said up to £10 billion of efficiency gains of the £13.3 billion figure remained uncertain, and departments were unable to demonstrate that savings were "genuine, sustainable and had not affected service quality".
It said some savings, such as a "statistically unsound" £300 million claimed by the Department of Health, had not been challenged. It added six of the 10 largest government departments could be overstating their gains.
"Departments need to improve their measurement of efficiency by establishing reliable baselines, taking account of all additional costs involved in achieving efficiencies and having supporting evidence, which is subject to independent challenge," the report said.
When questioned by the committee in March, former OGC chief executive John Oughton said measurement was "more robust" than a year ago (News, 15 March).