Wednesday, 21 November 2007

The competence problem

Given the lack of a sharp ideological divide between the major parties, governing competence is increasingly the standard by which governments are judged. Gordon Brown's government has encountered a series of problems which, if they continue, will make them look as accident prone as that of John Major.

It was a breach of procedures to burn vast amounts of confidential data on to disks for the National Audit Office. The NAO should have come to Washington and examined them in a secure room. It was also a clear error to then dispatch them by an insecure means of transit. Any organisation is only as good as its weakest link.

A more underlying systemtic problem is the state of HM Revenue and Customs with its reported bags of unopened post. Did the merger of the Inland Revenue and the reputedly more savvy Customs and Excise three years ago create an unwieldly bureaucracy?

Morale and the ability to operate effectively appears to have been effected by a series of cutbacks in staffing. We saw in the case of the Rural Payments Agency how such cutbacks can create chaos. They are a popular way of saving money when the public finances are under pressure. But they may have undermined the ability of a vital government service to operate effectively.

1 comment:

skipper said...

Seems to me it's just bad luck-something which Gordon Brown seems to have had thrust upon him over the last month- but voters don't distinguish between causality and non-causality; if it happens on your watch politically, you'll pick up some of the blame. Napoleon was a big believer in 'lucky generals'; seems like Gordon has used up his store and this might cause him to be edged towards the exit come 2009. But that's still far enough away for him to change his own luck maybe.