Government productivity

August 16, 2011

An interesting piece from the London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) Public Policy Group entitled “Why Does Government Productivity Fail to Grow? New public Management and UK social security“. The piece is most interesting in that it is heavily critical of productivity at the UK Department of Work & Pensions (DWP). This is even more interesting when it is likely that the DWP will be taking on the new Universal Credit system, removing the current processing of Housing Benefits from local government.

Due to constant pressures from auditors, central government performance indicators and funding constraints the local government systems have become as efficient as possible given the constant changes imposed upon them and upon the system from central government. For it now to be transferred to a government department, that has clearly failed to get its own house in order, is likely to be a disaster. The paper even describes the HMRC as more efficient, when this blog and Parliament were criticising it very recently!

Whilst the convergence of benefits is obviously a good idea, perhaps questions need to be raised as to where, when and how it can be done most efficiently, if we are not to be left in a worse situation than the one we currently have!

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Same old story

October 25, 2010

Mark Ballard blogging on ComputerWeekly.com following the Comprehensive Spending Review announces it as the death-knell of transformational and e-government, along with a comparison of the Blair Modernising Government programme and all it failed to deliver. In many ways I tend to agree and have blogged about the programme’s demise here before.

However, if project management has taught me one thing, it’s the need for a post-implementation review, and I would hope for an overall one to assess the programme. When did this occur? I’m afraid in the world of politically inspired initiatives they never happen, Ministers move on, people move on and the game continues, for as Ballard  notes “after all the Conservative hoopla about an end to Soviet-era IT projects, the Chancellor promised £2bn for the DWP to create a system of Universal Credit“. Has anybody ever basically assessed the difference between “rates”, “community charge (poll tax)” and  “council tax”, and whether the billions spent on them made life any better? Similarly the benefits systems that have to be applied to compensate for those that can’t pay?

Much of this type of bureaucracy revolves around what Paul Henman labelled the “New Conditionality” and whilst the technically challenged politicians may not recognise it, they are exploiting technology to the extreme to deliver their policies, which are so complex, the systems are unlikely to ever work without massive human intervention and great cost!

Whilst “New Labour” with its “Modernising Government” and e-government programmes largely carried on from its predecessors in control, this time the political will has overridden any rationality. Savings will be made, money will be wasted and thousands, in the wrong place and time, will lose their jobs.

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