Raising the quality of information available to ministers and civil service leaders will improve decision-making, increase Whitehall efficiency and help deliver savings for the taxpayer, according to an independent report published today.
The report, Practical Steps to improve Management Information in Government, sets out a series of recommendations to ensure government departments measure their performance and monitor their spending in the best way possible.
This will make comparisons easier, and will help identify new ways to drive up efficiency – an approach which last year helped to deliver £10 billion in savings for the taxpayer.
Part of the Civil Service Reform Plan, it seeks to take a more unified approach to how government works and provide common standards by which to compare how money is spent in different departments. In the past, the federal nature of Whitehall meant departments developed different systems for collecting data, even where two departments were spending money on a similar function – such as HR or procurement.
The Cabinet Office commissioned Dr Martin Read CBE, former CEO of Logica and a member of the government’s Efficiency and Reform Board, to recommend steps to improve the quality and consistency of management information across government.
Cabinet Office Minister Chloë Smith said:
The importance of good management information is consistently raised by our non-executives and is a long standing priority for the Cabinet Office. Better MI means better decisions. So we want our MI to be used to help make good decisions for the benefit of the taxpayer. That’s why we commissioned Dr Martin Read to identify where we can accelerate progress across the Civil Service.
In the past, government never had a proper handle on how different parts of Whitehall spent public money. Yet improving how we collect, scrutinise and use data is vital in our efforts to strip out waste and work more efficiently. By regularly publishing data showing how we’re spending taxpayer money, departments and individuals can be held to account for the delivery of their objectives.
We are strengthening the role of finance directors, improving data collection and scrutinising the information we collect with greater rigour. This will help us maximise the opportunity to build on the £10 billion of savings we made last year.
Dr Martin Read CBE said:
Without accurate, timely and comparable management information on how money is spent, it is impossible to manage expenditure effectively.
I welcome the steps the government is taking to tackle this issue. Implementing the recommendations of my report will help senior ministers and civil servants set numerical objectives, hold management to account and drive operational improvements across government to the benefit of all.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said:
I would like to thank Dr Martin Read for the personal time he has devoted to the management information agenda on behalf of the Efficiency and Reform Board. Robust and timely management information about government operations is crucial for effective financial management and control, which are core Treasury priorities. We will review what further improvements could be made as we conclude this Spending Round.
Since Dr Read’s report was delivered to ministers last year, the Cabinet Office has set about putting its recommendations into action, including:
- working with departments to simplify and strengthen the system of quarterly comparative data reporting (the QDS)
- publishing rigorous, clear data standards for all departments to follow when reporting on common government operations
- increasing accountability by making Senior Financial Officers responsible for management information in their department
- introducing a thorough quality assurance regime by providing best practice guidelines for departments
- establishing a cross-government MI profession to share knowledge and best practice among departments
- introducing a new tool for QDS data which will make information on government spending more accessible to the general public – this will be launched in the near future