By Erin Few.
On Monday, the National Audit Office (NAO) released a report entitled “Improving government’s planning and spending framework” critiquing the spending of HM Treasury and providing recommendations to improve accountability and better serve taxpayers. The NAO has been keeping track of the Cabinet Office and Treasury’s progress over the years, stating that their spending has gotten better, but still lacks interconnectivity between departments and “an overarching strategic framework for achieving government’s objectives and balancing short-term priorities with long-term value for money.”
The NAO recommended new goals for the Treasury. First, planning and spending need to be better integrated to create a cohesive approach to save taxpayers’ money. The report provides avenues by which they might better achieve this goal, and a few recommendations stand out as very hopeful.
According to the NAO, one of the ways to implement this is to introduce performance management of their teams and closely monitoring department performance overall. This recommendation would hold departments accountable for their errors in spending and unrealistic plans, all while promoting government transparency and taxpayer accountability.
The report also suggests that the Cabinet Office have a role in reviewing each department’s annual internal business plan to ensure that they are within budget and their long- term departmental objectives are achievable. Having each annual plan reviewed will help HM Treasury create a standardised, overarching framework that sets boundaries and promotes the efficiency in government spending.
The second major goal of the recommendation emphasises “realistic medium-term plans” for both the Treasury and Cabinet Office. The report states that accounting officers should be held accountable for providing feasible medium-term business plans. In the past, the Treasury has been too focused on short-term plans and spending that is harmful to both taxpayers and doesn’t deliver for those in receipt of services. By focusing on medium-term business plans, the NAO hopes to promote the ideas of achieving long-term value for money, realistic planning, spending control and better performance management.
With this report, the National Audit Office hopes to ensure better goal setting, planning, and cohesiveness by the Treasury. This report provides solid basis on which to think about and, in time, implement some of this.