Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-85)|
21 FEBRUARY 2007
Q80 Mr Love: Can I refer you to the
Australian experience where they have a more simplified process
that is not as resource-intensive and very significant numbers
of people in Australia are prosecuted and fined. I do not know
what they do with the sentences for electoral registration but
I commend that system to you. It may well be that legislation
needs to go through to enable you to achieve that. I would hope
that you would come back to us in relation to that. Can I go on
to outsourcing? What lessons have you learnt from the outsourcing
in the last census?
Ms Dunnell: First of all, we learnt
that actually it was very successful. We identified a company
that delivered what we wanted and this time we are outsourcing
rather more of the work.
Q81 Mr Love: You will be aware of
the criticism made by the NAO about the inability to keep tabs
on what was happening. How do you respond to those criticisms?
Ms Dunnell: This time, of course,
as we said before, we are working very closely with the OGC. We
have already set up a dedicated procurement team in ONS and that
is working with our central procurement team. I do believe that
government procurement has got a lot more professional since the
Mr Cope: The procurement process
was quite successful but in the way in which we went about it,
we did not follow all the rules. We have procurement specialists
advising us and leading on procurement. I can assure you that
they do not let me do anything unless it is completely consistent
with all the government procurement rules. We are very fair between
the suppliers and transparent. We set out all our success criteria
before procurement was started. I am pretty confident that we
are following all the governed procurement rules and that has
been endorsed so far by the reviews that have been carried out.
In fact, our last OGC gateway review commended our procurement
Q82 Mr Love: Presumably you are following
all the NAO recommendations made in that report?
Mr Cope: Yes.
Q83 Mr Love: As a final question:
in October last year, and no doubt you will be aware of this,
my local authority commissioned Leslie Mayhew (I am sure he is
well known to you) to do a population study in my area. This is
six full years after the census was carried out. They have been
trumpeting the fact that they found a significant 3,400 odd difference
between his estimate, based on various sources, and the updated
ONS estimate. You are acutely aware, I hope, of the need in 2011
to get this right.
Ms Dunnell: I hope we have emphasised
that today. Yes.
Q84 Mr Todd: In the risk factors
that have been identified for this project I do not think there
is an explicit reference to relocation of parts of your operations
to Newport. Do you think that is a risk in carrying out this census
Ms Dunnell: No, I do not at all.
The census work was relocated from London to Titchfield in the
1990s and that was a very successful relocation. The way we are
managing the census at the moment is that Jil Matheson is responsible
for it on the executive board of the Office and Ian and his team
are entirely 100% dedicated to it in Titchfield. The relocation
to Newport really does not impact on the census at all.
Q85 Mr Todd: Good. On the Gershon
savings, you may have heard David Rhind making a remark which
did not suggest he was entirely comfortable about the application
of these saving to the ONS.
Ms Dunnell: Can I reassure you
about the census on this point? The Gershon savings apply to our
baseline, and of course we only have a very small amount of the
census that we are doing at the moment in our baseline. The bid
that we are making in the Spending Review is a bid for the whole
of the rest of the work up to 2012 and it will not be affected
by the Gershon efficiencies at all. The rest of the Office is
continuing, of course, to have to find efficiencies, but we are
making a separate bid for the census work.
Chairman: Thank you for that. You have
promised us some additional information on the OGC reviews. We
would be grateful to receive the ones that they have done and
the ones that continue to come in.