25 January 2019 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Public service outsourcing needs to be made much more accessible and transparent, according to a report by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
Its report calls for the creation of a new independent body that will maintain a 'Domesday Book' of all contracts including their performance on the outsourcing of services.
The TUC says that as private contractors are funded by taxes, the public "deserve to know how much profit they make, what dividends they pay, how much their senior management pay themselves, how they treat their workforce, and what their tax arrangements are".
A new register for public services would achieve this and would mean better data - and therefore better value for money for taxpayers.
The report states that there is a "stunning lack of accountability and transparency for public services delivered through private contractors" which would be "completely unacceptable if those services were provided in-house".
The TUC wants a "step change in the way we design and deliver our services, improve contract management and put the public interest first".
It gives three key recommendations:
1. Improve data collection on outsourced contracts
The Cabinet Office and Treasury have begun making improvements, but progress must be faster. The Cabinet Office should be given a greater role in collecting data from Whitehall, local authorities, police and crime commissioners, and the NHS.
2. A 'Domesday Book' for all contracts
A new public body should be set up that operates at arm's-length from central government. It would have statutory powers to require both commissioners and contractors from across the public sector to supply it with data.
And it should maintain a 'Domesday Book' of all contracts including their performance on the outsourcing of services.
3. Major reforms to improve value for taxpayers from outsourcing
The National Audit Office should become the audit supervisor for the whole public sector. And a new Office for Equity, Efficiency and Effectiveness should be established to maximise social and public value.
This new Office of the 3Es and the NAO should have a clear mandate to assess value for money, efficiency, effectiveness and equity when services are outsourced.