Public Sector Reform – PAC comment

I made the following speech on behalf of the Public Accounts Committee during the debate on public sector reform in September 2015.

Sir, I will begin by speaking on behalf of the Public Accounts Committee and then I have a few comments speaking on my own behalf.

Sir, on behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, I would first like to pay tribute to those who have enabled this paper to be brought forward before the Assembly today. The Committee appreciates their endeavours and would wish to publically acknowledge that the Chief Executive has kept the Committee informed of progress, which has been very much appreciated.

The Committee supports the inclusion of the value for money work-stream as one of the central pillars of this programme and I can confirm that the current PAC and, I hope, the new Scrutiny Management Committee will be keeping a close eye on the effectiveness of this element of the programme.

I do think it is excellent in demonstrating how value for money does not mean cost. Many times, I am asked to investigate expenditure because of the cost. Last month there was a call on the bus service, on how much it had cost the taxpayer. However, as I pointed out to those people, cost is only one element of value for money. You need to think of need and quality. By way of example, the bus service subsidy was cut, but you could question whether that resulted in better value for money.

The Committee notes with interest that the Report states that the FTP made every public sector worker cost-conscious. We need to be reassured that this programme will now empower each and every worker to take the actions necessary to improve value for money. We also note that the consultation on this work-stream starts in the quarter four of this year, with the establishment of a value-for-money team in quarter one of next year. Now, this is a positive step and the Committee is willing offer its full support.

We have just spoken about the need for internationally-recognised accounting standards and, again, I will say that the Committee believe this in integral to enabling the calculation of the true cost of service provision.

Just to pick up on Deputy Gillson’s comments, this morning, regarding financial training for Deputies, I think it should be extended to the public sector and that such training for non-financial managers is essential for those with budgets they are expected to manage.

Now, once the value-for-money work-stream is established, the consultation completed and the framework developed, we would call upon the Chief Minister to support the production of a report to be brought forward for consideration by the States as soon as is practicable.

Learning lessons: the Committee’s rallying call has been that the States of Guernsey must learn the lessons – good as well as those not to be repeated – from the various initiatives undertaken. The Committee looks forward to such lessons related to change management, being fully embedded into the processes, culture and psyche of the Public Service, as it moves forward with the implementation of these reforms.

To answer Deputy Laurie Queripel, I can say that Public Accounts Committee has been pushing for a post implementation review for SAP from T&R and we want it by the end of this term. We have recently been sent draft terms of reference so things are moving but, like Deputy Queripel, I would like assurance from the Minister that the review can be completed within this term.

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