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UK government wastes billions, MPs warn

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Efforts to improve efficiency and value for money across government are being undermined by poor project management and leadership skills, MPs have warned.

A hard-hitting report by the cross-party House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this week said government departments are wasting billions of pounds of public money by failing to learn from each other and repeating mistakes time and again.

The government is signed up to the recommendations of last year’s Gershon Review, which suggested £20bn could be shaved from public spending through new technologies and the efficient use of resources and manpower.

Overall the Committee, which scrutinises public spending, said that just a two per cent improvement in the use of resources could save the public purse £8bn a year, the equivalent of 15 new hospitals or 2p off the rate of basic tax.

But, following a review of some of its reports of the past decade, which have made recommendations to Government on the efficient use of public money, the PAC concluded only limited progress is being made.

In particular it found that the take-up of new technologies that could reduce bureaucracy and increase efficiency has been slow.

It also expressed concern that while individual departments have taken on board the Committee’s past recommendations, these lessons have not been shared across Whitehall.

Committee chairman Edward Leigh said the report "suggests a failure by departments to learn from each other’s experience. Basic errors are repeated time and again, despite fine words and earnest assurances to this committee.

“Many public services are chronically marred by deadening complexity and bureaucracy. There is a continuing lack of leadership and drive. And government departments still disregard common and well-publicised pitfalls when they approach projects.”

The PAC made seven recommendations to government on how it could improve future performance. These include better planning, reducing complexity and bureaucracy, more commercial awareness, tackling fraud and improving public service productivity.

See:

Report: Achieving value for money in the delivery of public services (PDF: 693KB)

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