Magazine article Public Finance

Watchdog Watch

Magazine article Public Finance

Watchdog Watch

Article excerpt

WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE WORLD OF REGULATION AND INSPECTION

National Audit Office

The government still has a long way to go before it has proper control of the £40bn it spends annually on contracts with the private sector, the National Audit Office has said.

Auditors found there had been progress since it was revealed in July 2013 that G4S and Serco overcharged the Ministry of Justice for some electronic tagging services. However, the NAO concluded in the Transforming government's contract management report, that there was still a need for sweeping changes in the culture of the civil service and its capability to procure and manage commercial contracts.

In most of the contracts reviewed across government, auditors said there were weaknesses in management, with problems including poor governance and record keeping, and capacity issues.

Auditor general Amyas Morse said there was a need to build up the commercial skills of contract management staff, both in departments and at the centre, and enhance the status and profile of their role.

Auditors also found that the government is getting better value for the £7bn spent each year on education for 16- to 18-year-olds, but is not clear about exactly how this is being achieved.

The percentage of young people in this age-group in education and training has increased, even as the money spent by the Department for Education was reduced, its examination found.

Overall, only 7.6% were classified as NEET - not in education, employment or training. This was compared with 9.2% at the end of 2012.

Morse said better information was needed about the effectiveness of reforms introduced by the government so that it can decide which to keep and which to change.

Ofsted

The academy chain where David Hoare, the new chair of Ofsted, has been a trustee since January has been judged to not be performing well enough by school inspectors.

The Academies Enterprise Trust, the UK's largest school chain with 77 academies, was criticised last year by Ofsted for its poor standards. Hoare, an experienced businessman, was drafted in as a trustee to help improve performance. However, a re-inspection by Ofsted in June this year has found many areas of continuing concern.

Of the 12 academies inspected in June, one was judged to be inadequate and five to 'require improvement'. The remaining six were judged to be good, with none rated as outstanding.

According to the update, only five of the 12 academies inspected had improved since their previous inspectioa One had declined since its previous inspection.

In a letter to the trust, Ofsted chief operating officer Matthew Coffey said: "Half the academies in the trust are not yet good. As a result, too many pupils in the trust are not receiving a good enough education.'

An AET spokeswoman said that the group was acting to ensure a rapid and sustained improvement in these academies.

Audit Commission

Councils' spending on looked-after children rose by 4% in the four years to the end of 2012/13, despite a 12% increase in the number of children for whom they are responsible over the same period, Audit Commission figures have revealed.

The commission found there were large regional variations in the spending changes, from a 15% rise in the Northeast to a 7% reduction in London.

The number of children in the care of councils in England rose by 7,210 to 68,110 over the four years to March 31 2013, according to a commission briefing.

Councils in England spent a total of £3. …

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