Select Committee on Public Accounts Twenty-Second Report

3  The lack of good quality data on departments' office property

13. Understanding current building performance is vital to improving property efficiency across government.[35] However, not all departments use the OGC's mandatory database to store their property information. The OGC estimates that this database records details on only 90% of the estate.[36] It has inadequate management information on individual department's office property and there is no consolidated picture of the performance of central government's office property.[37] Out of a total of 896 buildings, departments could not provide details in 665 cases on the amount of building space that was open plan or cellular. In 58 cases, departments were unable to provide a breakdown of operating costs, and in 60 cases they did not know how many people were based in the building.[38] Departments require information on all of these variables to understand and assess how to improve building performance.

14. OGC is to mandate its benchmarking service from 1 April 2008 and expects all departments to be taking part by March 2009.[39] OGC calculates that this level of participation will provide information on almost 2000 office buildings and place it in a better position to identify how to improve performance across the estate.[40] However, given the reluctance of departments to participate in previous mandated services it is questionable whether OGC will achieve the required commitment to the benchmarking service.

15. Data on the sustainability of individual buildings across central government is not good enough and sets a poor example to the private and wider public sector.[41] Departments lack the basic information necessary to evaluate environmental performance. For example, in 2005-06, in 544 cases departments did not know if the building had a recycling scheme and were unable to supply any information on the amount of energy consumed for 265 buildings.[42] Despite energy use being one of the key data components for calculating carbon output, a third of buildings were missing one or more of the metrics used to calculate energy consumption per square metre.[43]

16. Most sustainability targets are currently set for departments' estates rather than for the office estate or individual buildings.[44] For example, the government's recycling target is applied to all of its estate and, while this focuses on improving overall performance, it can mask the particularly poor performance of individual buildings.[45] OGC now intends to incorporate recycling into the effectiveness measures in its benchmarking service.[46]

35   Q 61 Back

36   Qq 69-70 Back

37   Qq 49, 61, 78 Back

38   Qq 78, 122 Back

39   Qq 22, 133 Back

40   Q 133 Back

41   Q 19 Back

42   Qq 19, 71 Back

43   Q 19; C&AG's Report, para 2.17 Back

44   Q 73 Back

45   Q 73 Back

46   Q 71 Back

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Prepared 22 May 2008