A recent audit of the Department for Education exposes woolly thinking in the civil serviceby Emran Mian / January 22, 2015 / Leave a comment
“Tight” and “loose” are two terms that have entered the street slang of Whitehall in the past few years. “Loose” refers to the decision making that has been devolved from the centre to, for example, the increasing number of academies in the schools system and the many clinical commissioning groups in the NHS. Whereas “tight” refers to, for example, the financial accountability which has returned to the centre, moving away from bodies such as local education authorities or the disbanded regional health authorities. All academies’ accounts now get consolidated into the Department for Education’s own accounts—tight. And the Secretary of State for Health owns all the property that used to be owned by the independent bodies abolished via this Government’s Health and Social Care Act—super tight.
The tight-loose dichotomy can matter if it gets in the way of knowing what is going on and who is accountable for it. Yesterday the Auditor General, Amyas Morse, published “an adverse opinion” on the Department for Education’s latest annual accounts for precisely this reason, concluding that they are not a “true and fair” statement of the Department’s affairs and that the level of error is “both material and pervasive.”