The Public Accounts Committee has published its report on Contracting out public services to the private sector. It's not a long document, particularly the section on recommendations, and you can read it here. It supports all the things which I and others have been saying for a long time about the perils of outsourcing.
As usual it was not reported in the Tory press. The Guardian and the Independent covered it well, and the BBC mentioned it. The Guardian spoke to Margaret Hodge, chairman of the committee, ahead of the publication. She called the report "damning" and said the DWP was "on the verge of meltdown" with its contracts. There has to be an end to the secrecy surrounding the contracts on the grounds of commercial confidentiality. Even the CBI supports that one. And there must be much better management of contracts. The DWP is allowed its usual paragraph of self-justification, and government minister Francis Maude was invited onto the BBC's Today programme to waffle unchallenged about how things were improving.
The Independent's Nigel Morris had a scathing piece much like the Guardian's. The report, he said, "accused ministers of trying to cover up mistakes by refusing to divulge details of contracts." He quotes Margaret Hodge as saying that the absence of competition meant that we have "privately-owned public monopolies which have become too big to fail." The article mentions the A4e fraud case, along with G4S and Serco.
There's another piece on the Guardian's website which puzzles me a bit. It's by Jane Dudman, and it focuses on A4e's part in the PAC's verdict. I'm puzzled because I can't find the opinions she attributes to Margaret Hodge in the report (if you can, let me know). Mrs Hodge wants to know why "scandal-hit" A4e are still in the running for contracts. Dudman goes on: "Last month, four former employees of A4e pleaded guilty in Reading Crown Court to 30 acts of fraud and forgery. But even Hodge was forced to acknowledge this was not a case of individuals trying to enrich themselves. None of the former staff benefited personally, she noted." Now, if Mrs Hodge did say that, we need to tell her that she could well be mistaken. She may be assuming that the profits from this forgery, the false outcome claims, went only to the company. But A4e had the practice, until recently, of paying particular individuals in an office a "commission" for each outcome, and rewarding whole teams for achieving for good outcome figures. Under that system, individuals had every incentive to push up their earnings by pushing up the figures.
One would love to think that the Public Accounts Committee's excellent work would change things, but I suspect it won't.