Examination of Witnesses(Questions 140-159)|
WEDNESDAY 17 JULY 2002
140. That is words.
(Mr Macpherson) No, it is not words actually. We have
very regular meetings, at least once a quarter, with departments
at official level to review progress against PSAs and to identify
what action needs to be taken if performance is lagging a sensible
trajectory for that target. What is more, we are reinforcing that
now with the NAO who will audit the data systems underlying these
targets. Also, following a very helpful dialogue with this Committee,
we have committed ourselves to more regular reporting and more
transparent reporting against PSAs. From the Treasury perspective,
I have to say I welcome this new interest in PSAs. It has been
difficult to get them off the ground but the fact that we are
now all talking about them can only be of benefit to the Treasury
and the taxpayer.
141. Right. On the question of reporting, the
late of education but not lamented Professor Barber, I think you
have got him somewhere in Downing Street now, said something about
he was going to put them on the net and report quarterly. What
are your intentions on producing performance against targets on
an open public and regular basis? How regular, where and when?
(Mr Macpherson) Departments are required already to
report on them twice a year, once in their departmental report
and once in, is it called, the performance report in the autumn,
so that is twice. Through this review I think we have made commitments,
also, to extend that and Adam probably has the commitment.
(Mr Sharples) We have indeed. We published a White
Paper setting out all the PSAs and that commits us to introducing
regular web based reporting of progress against all the PSA targets
with links to the associated technical notes.
142. What does regular mean, Mr Sharples? Is
regular once a year, quarterly, six monthly?
(Mr Sharples) We have to look at the practicalities
of how frequently we can do it.
143. You have not got there yet?
(Mr Sharples) It is worth bearing in mind
144. No, no, I am just trying to get so we know
where we are. You have not arrived at how regularly they will
(Mr Sharples) No, we have not finalised that yet.
145. When will you do that?
(Mr Sharples) We will be doing this in the coming
months so that the system is available before the start of the
next financial year.
146. This is the trouble with these committees.
What do you mean by few months? Do you mean this year, before
(Mr Sharples) As I say, before the start of the next
financial year when these targets come into effect.
147. That is next March?
(Mr Sharples) That is right.
148. So you will not give us a decision on regularity
for six or eight months. I am not being funny. I am just trying
to find out what you are up to.
(Mr Macpherson) You are quite right to ask.
149. Very nice of you, Mr Macpherson.
(Mr Macpherson) I would hope that we can give you
a decision sooner than six months.
150. Wonderful. Let me ask you about targets
that disappear. One I know from my constituency that has not been
met in education is where youngsters are excluded from school.
In the 2000 review you pledged yourself that each of these youngsters
got full-time education. I have got kids in my constituency and
I am sure other members have kids in their constituencies who
seem to wander at will but disappear from this year's performance
targets. Has it been met? Is it too embarrassing? What is the
sanction? Do they drop them if they find them inconvenient?
(Mr Sharples) There is a target included in the education
PSA for reducing school truancy and for improving
151. I have seen it, it is 10 per cent, but
that is not the pledge. There was a double one. That is reduction
of it but it said specificiallyand I will read it to you
if I am challenged but the Chairman will not want me to take the
timethat every youngster who was permanently excluded would
be given full-time education. Now it has disappeared. As you see,
Mr Sharples, where your finger is, it is not there, it was in
the previous one.
(Mr Sharples) To finish the sentence of the target,
it goes on to say "and improve overall attendance levels".
152. It was a specific pledge which was much
needed on our estates and it has disappeared. Perhaps you would
let us know where that went to.
(Mr Sharples) One of the commitments in the document
is we will let you and everybody know precisely what has happened
to all the old targets, where they relate to the new targets,
where they have been met.
Mr Mudie: What about this other dog's
dinner, this spinning of all these so-called inspection bodies.
How many of the seven are new? This is the great and good who
will audit and inspect a key part of the reforms. How many are
new? That is a specific question numerically which a man from
the Treasury should understand. It is out of seven; how many are
153. Let the witness answer.
(Mr Macpherson) I am not aware of a reference in the
documentation to seven
154. I have counted them.
(Mr Macpherson) The objective clearly is to rationalise
them to make
155. They are listed on Page 12.
(Mr Sharples) The proposals are for a rationalisation
156. They are not new, they have been about.
(Mr Sharples) It is a reorganisation and rationalisation
of existing inspection arrangements.
(Mr Macpherson) There are two objectives here. One
is to strengthen inspection, the other is also to rationalise
it to make it more proportionate. Part of the problem with a lot
of public services is they are inspected by a whole raft of different
agencies and some of the thinking underlying both the reforms
to health and also to housing is to bring this inspection under
one umbrella body which will therefore ensure that the inspection
itself is more effective than it is at present.
157. But the answer to it is that they have
been in existence, you shall be rationalising them but far from
being a major reform they have been in operation for some considerable
time. These are the bodies which with the rationalisation will
become super auditor inspectors.
(Mr Macpherson) It may not feel like that to the hospital
which now only has to deal with one CHAI rather than having the
CHI coming round and then two weeks later the Audit Commission
coming round which is time intensive for managers.
158. That is a question because when I was in
further education they used to play hell when they used to have
three audit inspections. Who will inspect hospitals in future?
Are there going to be two auditors or is everybody going to be
inspected once and audited once? What are the implications?
(Mr Macpherson) On hospitals there is going to be
one bodythe CHAI.
159. What happens to the district auditor on
housing? Will the district auditor no longer have housing as a
(Mr Macpherson) The housing proposals will be spelt
out in detail in due course, but the objective, as I say, is to
strengthen the process but also to make it more effective by rationalising