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Following the announcement last week from Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, highlighting that the Government is halfway through its quango reform programme, two academics have suggested that it is ‘narrow and possibly naïve’ to assume that accountability is increased by abolishing quangos and moving their functions closer to ministers.
While acknowledging the speed and extent of the current public bodies reform agenda Professor Matthew Flinders (University of Sheffield) and Professor Chris Skelcher (University of Birmingham) challenge the suggestion that the reforms will increase accountability to the public.
Writing in the latest edition of Public Money and Management, they say:
“First and foremost, to assume that accountability is necessarily increased by drawing functions closer to ministers seems to adopt a rather narrow and possible naïve approach to the topic. Narrow in the sense that arm's-length bodies are held to account through a set of procedures of which upwards accountability to ministers is just one form… And naïve in the sense that where quangos have been abolished elsewhere, and their functions absorbed within ministerial departments, the outcome has generally been less accountability rather than more… because functions had been placed back within a highly-politicised, partisan and adversarial environment.”
Contact: Tim Windle
CIPFA Press Office
t 0207 543 5600
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About Public Money and Management
PMM is an independent review of policy, management and finance in the public services. Articles are reviewed by academics and practitioners to ensure quality and practical impact. PMM is owned and managed by CIPFA, which wishes it to be regarded as a neutral forum for debate and dissemination of knowledge.
PMM has a multidisciplinary audience. It publishes articles which contribute new knowledge as a basis for policy or management improvements, or which reflect on evidence from public service management and finance. Readers include officials in all types of public service organizations; academics; consultants and advisers working with the public services; voluntary (third) sector organizations delivering public services; politicians; journalists; and students on both academic and professional courses. The editors welcome articles about developments outside the UK which offer clear lessons for British or other western practitioners.