Progress towards meeting the £21.5bn Gershon public sector efficiency targets should be regarded as “provisional” because of risks that data has been reported inaccurately, the National Audit Office has warned.
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The spending watchdog said reported savings of £4.7bn so far should be “subject to further verification” because of “the extent of the risk that efficiencies may not be measured accurately, and time lags in reporting”.
In its report, Progress in Improving Government Efficiency, the NAO calls for more investment in information systems. “Better data on efficiency and productivity is needed urgently,” it warns.
Government departments should in the short term use separate diagnostic exercises to understand how current systems operate and what information providers need to manage services well, the report urges.
But it adds: “In the longer term, however, there is no substitute for investment in information systems that enable managers to base their strategies on clear and timely data that link input costs to specific outputs.”
The NAO also warns that Gershon programme remains “high risk”. Potential pitfalls include the fact that 15% of the £21.5bn planned efficiencies “depend on Information and Communications Technology projects, the risks associated with which are well known”.