Government must improve scrutiny of public spending, PAC says

A new report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has called on the government to improve its transparency regarding cost and performance data.

The watchdog argued that the increased use of outsourcing and devolution to local areas has undermined parliament’s ability to hold the government to account. The report warned that the lack of sufficient financial data is a ‘long-standing’ problem that is preventing delivery bodies from being held accountable.

The PAC also outlined instances where departmental accounting officers allowed projects to proceed even though evidence suggested they would deliver poor value for money. It warned the accounting trend had resulted in a ‘damaging lack of transparency’ with regard to concerns over the use of public money.

Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC, said: “Any threat to effective scrutiny requires serious attention as it risks weakening Parliament's ability, on behalf of the public, to hold the government to account for its spending.

“We are particularly concerned that accountability arrangements have lagged behind changes in the way government conducts its business. Data is persistently inadequate and there is an urgent need for greater clarity on lines of responsibility.”