Unique Research on Quango spending
Reform Scotland highlights scale of the accountability deficit
Reform Scotland, the independent, non-party think-tank, has revealed new research showing the scale of expenditure by quangos on PR, overseas travel, external consultants and hospitality/entertainment. Total expenditure by quangos across these four areas was an annual total of £113m.
In its Reform Scotland briefing, released today (Saturday), Reform Scotland reveals that £14bn of Scottish government money was given to quangos in Scotland. Expenditure in these four specific areas is aggregated in the briefing for the first time since quangos were required to publish these amounts in the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010.
Reform Scotland believes that this is expenditure without proper public scrutiny. Members of the public have no means of holding anyone to account for this expenditure – demonstrating the existence of an “accountability deficit”.
Commenting, Reform Scotland’s Director Geoff Mawdsley said:
“We have revealed significant sums of public money being spent without sufficient public accountability.
“Ministers who spend public money are accountable to the people at elections and to the Parliament between them. Similarly, independent organisations performing work for public money must enter into an open and transparent contract.
“Spending by quangos sits in an accountability gap in between. This is public money – taxpayers’ money – and those who spend it should be accountable.”
Reform Scotland believes that most quangos should either be re-integrated into government departments, meaning that ministers would then be accountable for their decisions, or else moved to independent bodies which would contract transparently with government, with the public holding government accountable for performance against those contracts.
Geoff Mawdsley continued:
“Many politicians have long advocated a “bonfire of the quangos”, but attention has been focussed on the number of them, rather than the scale of the spending that is un-scrutinised every year. To provide true accountability, these bodies should be brought back into government, or else set apart entirely. In some cases, the best option would be to devolve their functions to local government delivering the double benefit of accountability and real devolution. Any of these options would be significantly better than the current situation.”