Government told to ‘properly account’ for £265bn spent by quangos

·2-min read

A review of arm’s-length bodies which are responsible for spending £265 billion a year of taxpayers’ money has not been completed five years after it was promised, a new report has claimed.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said that although the Cabinet Office had promised to review every so-called quango between 2016 and 2020, just one-third of the tailored reviews had been completed.

It added that the makeup of these bodies remained “messy and complicated”.

In a report released on Friday, the PAC said promises to cut the number of arm’s-length bodies (ALBs) “has been limited” and there must be an overhaul into how the business cases for new quangos are assessed.

“If there is ever to be real progress in the governance of ALBs, the Cabinet Office must place greater emphasis on ensuring these business plans are correct and in order rather than trying to reform an ALB once established,” it stated.

Dame Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC, said: “The famous ‘bonfire of the quangos’ of a decade ago notably failed to spark and in fact we’ve seen Government wave through half-baked business cases for arms-length bodies too often since.

“The public appointments to lead these bodies lack transparency and accountability to an extent that poses a real risk to the reputation of the organisation and so to how Government delivers objectives using them.

“Government must begin to properly account for the vast £265 billion of taxpayers’ money a year spent by ALBs, starting at the point of why they’re set up in the first place, and demonstrate who is genuinely the best person to lead and deliver through an open, fair and transparent public appointments process.”

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “It’s crucial arm’s-length bodies provide value for money and deliver for the public.

“That’s why they have strict oversight and spending controls, and our reform programme will ensure they operate to the highest standards.

“All departments’ compliance with appointment rules are monitored independently.”

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