Friday, 3 February 2017

GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT VOID

This is best described by the NAO (National Audit Office) in a recent report as follows: we do not consider that there exists a coherent, enduring framework for planning and management that government needs.” At last recognition…but what will be done?

The management cycle is integral to virtually all human activities: the car driver has a destination and is constantly reacting to the feedback that comes at him through the windscreen, the next corner and so on. 1n the 1940s fighter and bomber pilots were debriefed immediately on landing enabling operational plans to be updated.  The industry boss will be constantly looking ahead, giving directions and strategies aided by feedback, statistics and so on. Periodically his finance team will collate proposals and needs from all quarters of the organisation and compile the plan for the ensuing period for adoption or amendment. The resulting budgets are then issued back down the line for execution and as time  passes report back on outcomes, all in standard measured format.
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Government doesn’t behave like that. It regards politics as the method and as an end in itself. It does not even seem to have a one-page public statement of its primary objectives in running the country. Lacking management information it drives with a rear-view mirror and misted windscreen. It sets up a committee. It sets up a quango (jobs for the boys). It ‘empowers’ (?). It legislates and then ‘takes the day off’. It excludes. It believes it can manage without ‘tools’ and ‘machinery’ which are regarded as separate and beneath consideration. It doesn’t understand that the art of management is the delegation of responsibility while retaining control. It seems to be trying to fill the void by second guessing and supplementing unstructured line management using words like ‘independent’ and ‘democratic, to ‘scrutinise’ (looking for what?) and debate without executive conclusion.

The above can be seen in the FLAW evidence put to the C&AG (Comptroller & Auditor General): “There is a deep conceptual but simply identified flaw in government accounting which must be costing billions and is creating uncontrolled debt”.

1 That accountability is in the hands of recipients of public funds is the cause of the failure of the (European court of auditors) to sign off the accounts. “They never will until this is addressed.” This is not so much a suggestion of corrupt practices, though it may be, but saying that there is no outcome feedback. That applies equally in UK though since 2009 there has been feedback into WGA Whole Government Accounts but with the resulting consolidation taking up to a useless 14 months. It was intended that by 2010 comparative budget values would be incorporated but that has not happened.

2 The IMF has just been criticised by its ‘independent examiner’ for its role in the Greek crisis and failure to grasp that currency unions require treasury and political union or are vastly exposed to debt crises. In other words  the budget must be resourced and achievable as seen at the time. The same very clearly goes for the UK sterling area.

3 There is lack of information on which to vote in that in UK the universal franchise has not yet extended to formal accountability. “Accountability” needs information to inform the required decision. For government it only so far means exposure to election. There is no systematic feedback to MPs as deputed by the cabinet (?) or via the DCLG (Dept. of Communities & Local Government), or to residents by Annual Report.

The recognition of need is present but is neutered by an expressed general feeling, particularly in the treasury of insurmountable complexity. In fact the right drivers would come from an immediately instituted Cabinet agenda spot served by regular Report in standard format. The Cabinet Secretary would need to ‘believe’ and CFO and ministers put ‘on the spot’ in turn. The initial absence of the data for key-figures would stimulate system upgrading. Then the evolutionary process would take care of ‘deep-reaching’ improvement to a wide range of government activities, tax simplification and so on all prompted by the new dialogue from the top. Savings would be in billions with true Value for Money .

.2nd February 2017

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