COMMONS

Committee Chair Meg Hillier MP publishes Second Annual Report

02 May 2017

The Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier MP, has today published her Second Annual Report.

Her report considers the recent and longer-term work of the Committee, which scrutinises the value for money of public spending.

The Chair identifies a number of Government departments as being of particular concern, highlighting financial pressures in Education and Health; the risks posed to delivery by major transformation projects in Justice and HMRC, and looming challenges faced by Defence and Work & Pensions.

Brexit will  dominate the next Parliament, writes the Chair, and the capacity of the civil service to deliver the changes required will be a huge part of the challenge.

Chair's comment

In the foreword she writes:

"In this report I highlight the departments which the next Parliament needs to watch closely. Once again the stand-out concern is the Department of Health. The Department for Education is now showing some of the same financial strains that were evident in health a few years ago and is now clearly second highest on our list of concerns.

The Committee spends a lot of time scrutinising individual departments. This helps us see cross-cutting issues about how Government works—a lack of key data to measure performance, concerns about skills in the civil service, poor project management, cost-shunting by one department to another part of the public sector and, of course, Brexit.

Too often we get lip service about how these issues are important but see a depressingly regular return to the same old problems.

After my second year as Chair I am increasingly concerned about the long-term accountability of senior civil servants. The game of musical chairs starts as one Permanent Secretary moves on and they all change jobs in the system … Time and again we see failures but not enough civil servants are there long enough to be held responsible for their actions.

I have sought to counteract this by calling back any serving civil servant to answer for a former project—the failed Green Deal and the Levy Control Framework are just two examples.

My message is clear—if you were responsible, you remain accountable for those actions and decisions, in public."

Further information

Image: Parliamentary copyright

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