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1 April 2014 | Gurjit Degun
The Cabinet Office must work with other government departments to reap the full benefits of its shared services strategy, the National Audit Office (NAO) has said.
The comments are in a report looking at the progress the Cabinet Office has made with its Next Generation Shared Services Strategy. In December 2012, the department set out a plan to reduce the cost of administering finance, human resources and procurement services through sharing back-office functions aiming to save £600 million a year.
“The Cabinet Office is now responsible for the strategic management of the performance of the outsourced providers in the two shared service centres that provide services to 140,000 customers,” the report said. “The overall programme is broadly on track.”
However, the NAO added the Cabinet Office should ensure departments sign up to the standard operating model, and “do not implement unnecessary variations to services”.
It added the Cabinet Office needs to have management information that is “robust, more timely and comparable”. This will help it show whether its initiatives on services have achieved value for money, the NAO explained. The report also called on the department to make sure the full benefits of the entire programme are “properly realised and tracked”.
The NAO said: “The Cabinet Office and other government departments will need to be clear in their reporting of the savings that have been achieved through the Next Generation shared services, as well as the savings that would have been achieved by reduced activity as a result of government spending constraints.”
The report also pointed out that although the Cabinet Office has made progress, it has only implemented two of the seven recommendations made in a report by the Public Accounts Committee in 2012.
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “As the initiative enters its most challenging phase, it is crucial that the Cabinet Office fully address previous recommendations by the Public Accounts Committee. In particular, lessons from intelligent customers should be shared, and the department should prepare and communicate performance benchmarks.
“There will be a tension between getting departments to join the centres and sticking to the programme's timetable, and maintaining a standard operating model that is acceptable to all users.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “We will consider [the NAO’s] recommendations in detail but we already know that there’s more to do to slash duplication and ensure value for the taxpayer.”