This points towards an appalling degree of incompetence, indifference or both

After the classic example of mismanagement of the Navan Centre project by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (among others), the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons today released a report on the NI Jobskills programme[PDF file], run by the Department for Employment and Learning – “Our overall impression is that Jobskills is one of the worst-run programmes that this Committee has examined in recent years”. It was introduced in 1995 and by March 2003 the Jobskills programme had cost £485million. BBC report here and Press Association report here. The heading is a quote from the report’s general conclusions Update edited text referring to previous post.From the summary of the Committee’s report

The Committee draws the following main conclusions from our examination:

Our overall impression is that Jobskills is one of the worst-run programmes that this Committee has examined in recent years. We noted a quite astonishing catalogue of failures and control weaknesses, all of which pointed to a disturbing level of complacency within the Department. While we readily acknowledge that it has to deal with some very difficult groups of young people, this does not explain the widespread shortcomings in supervision and control that existed.

It is clear that Jobskills has not received the senior management attention that it deserves. One of the most damning aspects of the Department’s handling is the extent to which a number of the most fundamental weaknesses – such as poor quality training and high levels of early leaving from the scheme – persisted over many years. We saw little evidence of the Department having tackled these problems with any great vigour, prior to the C&AG’s review. This points towards a disturbing degree of incompetence, indifference or both.

At half a billion pounds, the funding provided to this programme, since 1995, has been enormous. Given the serious and ongoing concerns about the quality of training, the poor performance of a number of training providers, the limited employment impact of the programme and the substantial ‘skills mismatch’ between Jobskills and the needs of the Northern Ireland economy, we can only conclude that, in far too many respects, Jobskills has provided poor value for money.

One of the most unsatisfactory aspects of our review was the poor quality of the Department’s answers to a number of our questions. Too many responses either failed to properly address the question or sought to defend what was clearly indefensible. We wish to make it clear that this is not acceptable and we would ask the Department of Finance and Personnel to emphasise to all Northern Ireland Departments the importance which this Committee attaches to accurate and unambiguous responses to our enquiries.[emphasis added]

The Committee welcomes the Accounting Officer’s assurance that he has accepted all of the recommendations in the C&AG’s Report. The Department should be in no doubt, however, that we want to see a much improved performance when the C&AG next examines this or any other scheme for which it is responsible.

Or else?..