Leading article: Malfunctioning government

Share
Related Topics

So depressingly accustomed have we become to counting money lost during the financial crisis in billions, even trillions of pounds, that the amounts revealed to have been squandered by the Government in recent days seem almost modest by comparison. Yet this is still money lost, a considerable amount of it – and it ultimately comes from the taxpayer.

At what might be called the micro end of the scale we have almost 100,000 retired public sector workers whose pensions were overpaid to the collective tune of £126m. The same day we learnt – thanks to the Commons Public Accounts Committee – that a government "efficiency drive" at the Department for Transport that was supposed to save £57m will actually end up costing £81m. Last, but by no means least, we have the school testing fiasco, a scandal spread over several months, which culminated in the publication of the official inquiry report yesterday.

While these three sprawling examples of mismanagement were quite separate and differ in many respects, they also had several features in common. They involved some form of ambitious IT project. The original purpose was to improve efficiency and save money. And in each case at least one private agency or consultancy was involved which was at one or more removes from government. If, or rather when, something goes wrong, accountability is blurred.

It is not as though we have not been here before. So familiar are these failings, from the project to computerise NHS records or the ill-fated Child Support Agency, to name but two, that they are almost like old friends.

It is surely time for someone to take a considered look at how government, the Civil Service, private agencies, quangos and the rest actually work together, with a focus on the Civil Service. It is not just that huge amounts of taxpayers' money have been wasted, it is that the blame regularly falls through the cracks.

There have been enormous changes over the past 30 years in what the Civil Service is expected to do, without – it appears – corresponding changes in training, structures or numbers. A top-level commission should be appointed with a brief to reinvent government for the 21st century.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron visiting a primary school last year  

The only choice in schools is between the one you want and the ones you don’t

Jane Merrick
Zoë Ball says having her two children was the best thing ever to happen to her  

Start a family – you’ll never have to go out again

John Mullin
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn