“authority to scrutinise and review, critically, the nature of spending in all areas..”

Here’s an interesting speech by the Northern Ireland Executive’s Finance minister, Peter Robinson, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy annual conference – “Delivering more with Less – Surviving the Big Squeeze!” – which almost slipped by, although the BBC did report it briefly. The proposal for a Performance & Efficiency Delivery Unit (PEDU) should, no doubt, be viewed in light of the expected budgetary restrictions.This is how Peter Robinson sees the objectives and composition of PEDU [added emphasis throughout]

Mr Robinson said that while its composition would have to be finalised, it must have clear objectives:

The PEDU will have authority to scrutinise and review, critically, the nature of spending in all areas. It will be asked to identify radical options to produce deliverable efficiency savings over and above the 3% level already set by direct rule Ministers. It may be that differential savings levels across the public sector will result from this.

Membership will be limited to a few respected individuals with a strong track record in overseeing successful organisational change involving the delivery of greater efficiency and better quality services. The unit should include individuals from outside the public sector.

“I am particularly keen that the PEDU will look at how we spend our money at present and what we achieve in terms of quality public services. It should be prepared to challenge even the most widely accepted assumptions about how we are organised and how we go about the business of delivering services.

What I want from the process is challenging recommendations as to what we should and should not be doing within the public sector, as well as plans to ensure that those services we must deliver are provided cost-efficiently.

“The Unit will also need to consider how our public spending programmes impact on securing growth in our wider economy, including the gap in productivity levels, in both the public and private sectors here, compared to the rest of the UK. This may involve scaling back programmes where the original policy objective has changed, or where there has been a failure to deliver those objectives.

And as well as reference the reform of the Civil Service and Workplace 2010 he has other options in mind.. including one we’ve seen in use already.

“The Budget context emphasises that all parts of the public sector need to look carefully at the disposal of surplus assets. If there are assets that are not required to deliver services, why not sell them and put the money to better use on behalf of everyone in Northern Ireland,” he proposed.