News & Views‎ > ‎

The state of government - is it actually broken ?

posted 21 Jan 2015, 02:10 by Peter Webb

 Looking back to the start of personal awareness at retirement one  remembers the shock and disbelief at discovering at a distance the ways of government which, then as well as now, were reflected in the many news reports and pundit opinion, prevalence of 'bad' bureaucracy stories and so on. Then, immersed in the council tax protest campaign, with its realisation of the crazy local funding system and 'nothing to do with me guv' attitude of councillors, one tended to lapse into a fatalistic 'well I suppose one has to accept that government is different' state of mind and hear so many times "well, there is nothing we can do about it". Or "that's politics".

 But now, from so many different standpoints, as we are forced to think 'out of the box' we are all realising more clearly that government as we have become used to it is actually broken leading through 'tax and spend' to unsustainable debt a situation masked by "the economy".   'Parliament' is 'on the case' but the politicians aren't and Parties won't talk about it or admit it which sums up the Westminster/Whitehall condition. There are four strands: 


  1. 1.     The senior Civil Service has grown apart from modern needs. Parliament knows this and a Select Committee reported "brutally" calling for a Commission to urgently set up change ready for the next Parliament.  Rt.Hon. Francis Maude is still in charge of that. If the ‘truth’ spoken to power is enhanced it is not much use if ‘Power’ is not similarly enhancing its ability to employ the ‘Truth’.
  2. 2.     The State runs without a proper financial system.  Party offerings on 'balancing the books' alternatives are unreal because  component facts are unsuitably organised.  Are you talking about the PSBR  or the national balance sheet ? The difference is basic. The pig is not fattened for market by adding gambling and prostitution to GDP. And there is no cost and management accounting budgetary control system feeding in to the top as normally understood (see 3)
  3. 3.     Decision-making: The pervasive culture of untimeliness must be costing us  £billions. The classic example is the c20 months it takes to produce WGAs. Another example is in the  Telegraph on 13th January: “Housing benefit overpaid by £1.4bn” reporting that the PAC “found”  that “last year” and so on. The PAC is offline and long after the event, trying to be part of what would otherwise be a rapid and routine financial control system. Put simply a mildly inefficient spend lasting a year adding up to £1bn discoverable nine months earlier means a loss of up to £750m. In real life there has to be a constant ability to re-direct and touch the tiller sooner rather than later.
  4. 4.     The Government to citizen relationship is 'feudal'. See re Voter Engagement attached and particularly note the Europe-wide survey finding that “There is a wide crisis of confidence …in their governments’ ability to manage public finances,…".  

    1. it just so happens that a response from the PAC (Public Accounts Committee) to a sharing of the Voter Engagement argument was received saying the matter was outside their jurisdiction  with studies concerning value for money. This went in reply:

 

"But here is an issue for you on value for money: it takes little imagination to realize that government accounting and an out of date Treasury are potentially cost creating. A Director General has been appointed but with limited scope and little 'hinterland' in the Treasury (as an accountant a bit lonely amongst all those economists - Ed). There is no cost and management accounting budgetary control feeding into the top as normally understood. Accountants are only now being recruited but at departmental level. A pervasive culture of lack of timeliness exists. The classic example is the c20 months it takes to produce WGAs. Another example is in today's Telegraph (13th January): "Housing benefit overpaid by £1.4bn" reporting that the PAC "found" that "last year".. and so on. Your PAC is, offline (out of any executive loop) and long after the event, trying to be a part of what would otherwise be a rapid and routine financial control system. Parliament is trying to MANAGE with a myriad of select committees, quangos and the like. Put simply a mildly inefficient spend lasting a year adding up to £1bn discoverable nine months earlier means a loss of up to £750m."

In other words our tax money is going down the drain at a rate allowed by government leaving the house to go on holiday and discovering a water leak rather too late. Undue decision time-lapse is probably a bigger cost waste than most others. From an earlier Update: financial control is about KNOWING what is happening  as nearly as possible in real time then acting on it as required while the relevant systems also provide the planning (budgetting) platform.

ĉ
Peter Webb,
21 Jan 2015, 02:10
Comments