A new report, published by the Institute for Government, has stressed how weak accountability increases the risk of failure of public services, with the same patterns of failure repeatedly occurring.
Accountability in Modern Government: What are the Issues? contends that the UK’s system of accountability ‘isn’t keeping up with the realities of modern government’, creating repeated failures and contention over who should be held to account when issues arise. Tragedies like the Grenfell Tower fire highlight this in the strongest way.
With ministers and civil servants often blaming each other with things go wrong, projects, such as the roll-out of Universal Credit, are lacking in the opportunity to learn from mistakes avoid them again. However, if and when failures are clearly attributable to ministers, many are not held to account for their decisions.
Furthermore, poor contract management often results in wider public services failures, from the millions of pounds lost in the overbilling for prisoner electronic tagging to the problems with benefit assessments.
Similarly, the IfG says there is a tendency to overemphasise blame when something goes wrong and obscure the facts rather than hold frank conversations about what would be needed to improve the situation.
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