The warm glow of PAC praise

11 October 2011
The Efficiency and Reform Group ERG has been given a welcome hug by the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) in its latest report on the body's progress, published today. Not bad at all is the verdict on its ability to deliver savings across central government. The PAC said the ERG could do a bit more about clarifying its responsibilities and those of other government departments, but on the whole, a good job has been done so far. And government CPO John Collington spoke at last week’s CIPS Conference about the particular progress made in five of the nine common spend categories - fleet, energy, travel, office supplies and print. Let’s take a moment to reflect. When was the last time you heard the PAC actually congratulate a government department for doing well in the value for money stakes? You know, the type of purchasing that didn't make PAC members want to jump over their Whitehall desks and attack departments with a sledgehammer (forget the foam pie) whenever they were in the same room? The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has not come out so well in recent reports. For example, Lord Currie of Marylebone chaired the review of single-source procurement used by the MoD, which is currently subject to 'Yellow Book' rules - where only one defence supplier is invited to tender. His report, published yesterday, revealed the MoD is missing out on savings running into hundreds of millions. Peter Luff, the minister for defence equipment, support and technology said in response: “Through careful implementation, I would be disappointed if we couldn't deliver savings rising to £200 million per year - although I expect this will take a number of years to reach its full value.” And a string of past reports have criticised performance: In the meantime, defence secretary Liam Fox has been clarifying the role of his friend Adam Werritty. “He has not been involved in any defence procurement issues,” he said and facing pressure over his meeting in a private capacity with the Sri Lankan leader. I suggest the minister spend his time focusing on delivering value for money for the taxpayers.
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