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Reading a speech by Bob Neill at the CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) Conference I was struck by the idea that every local authority in the country is going to have to publish any item of expenditure over £500.  The attempt being to increase transparency and hold people to account.

First reaction: That is a lot of data.  Will it actually work?

Second reaction: What would I think if they were using me as a service?

That led me to…

Third reaction: I would like to see published every time they SAVE any amount over £500.

The idea is that publishing expenditure over £500 “…will root out overspends, mistakes and waste that could save millions.”  In reality, someone has to administer all this and ensure it is correct.  They will also have to  respond to every single request for information about them as well.

Now there are already Scrutiny committees in Local Government.  A team of Councillors who have the specific role of scrutinising expenditure, on our behalf.

The question is, “Is this new idea actually going to make things more accountable?”  Or is the intention to discourage or prevent expenditure that will require justification?

I think it is really the latter.

But I do like the idea of publishing savings as well.  Just imagine how quickly people will start objecting to the savings (lay offs, local jobs not created, services cut back).    Now that really would get a debate going.

Now go one step further.  When a business case is put together, they have to publish the projected benefits, and when they will occur.  Also who will be held to account for the delivery of the benefits.  (Think any public sector computer project at this point).   Now, whether you are in the public or commercial sector, that really would focus peoples’ minds.

This is why we focus on both savings and effectiveness of service provision when we work on public sector balanced scorecards.  We recognise that it is not about what things costs but the value they create.  A big problem with the input – output – outcome model that has been so dominant in the public sector is that it does not care about capability.   For us it is about lowering costs whilst increasing the quality and delivery of service.  And we have examples of that.

If you want to find out how that works and talk to us about how that might apply in your organisation, give us a call.

You can read the original speech here