Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Should The Public Sector Be Quite So Public?

Is transparency costing us dearly?

I was speaking to Dr Paul Thomas (of BBC’s Ban The Boss programme) and something that he said stuck in my mind. He stated that ‘monitoring costs’. This is so obvious but I had never heard anybody say this before. Each time that we want to monitor something we have to define a process or assign someone to keep a look out. In many cases we might have to create a job for someone to oversee this. Thus a seemingly simple act might cost say £15,000 to £20,000 per year minimum. Why do we need to do this at all?

All across the country there are groups of people who are demanding to know how much their local council is spending on paperclips and they are justifying it by saying that if waste is eliminated our council tax will go down. Similar arguments are put forward for the Health Service and other public sector bodies. Why not simply say to the nosey parkers that the records are there for them to look at if they wish to fish in the filing cabinets and let our public sector workers do the work that they should be doing?

Isn’t it about time that we began to trust each other again? So what if my local council spends an extra £100 on paperclips as long as they deliver the service that they should? On the flip side, public sector employees and managers must understand that they are required to do their jobs as efficiently and effectively as possible. £100 on paperclips or £20,000 to monitor the stationery budget? It is a no brainer.

Recently I have spoken with many public sector managers, and budgets are being cut but the demands for accountability are increasing which are pushing up costs!! Since this is a zero sum game,  something somewhere is suffering. It is, spending on actually delivering services is being reduced.

Let us trust one another a little more and reduce the bureaucracy and overheads associated with monitoring and accountability. Let us reduce the number of managers, and learn to manage our public sector in a different and more effective manner. We really could reduce costs and maintain the standard of our services for long as possible. Let us be a little less public!

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