Wednesday, November 08, 2006

You're sacked

Oh dear. I'm cross again. Some swearing follows...

Milton Freedman suggested there were four ways money can be spent, in declining order of effectiveness:

1. Your own money on yourself - you want to get the best result at the least cost.

2. Your own money on someone else - you may or may not want to get the best result, depending on the circumstances, and you want it at the least cost.

3. Someone else's money on yourself - you want to get the best result, and you may or may not want the least cost.

4. Someone else's money on someone else - you may or may not want to get the best result, depending on the circumstances, and you may or may not want the least cost.

Sometimes the outcome of 4. is that you can't be bothered about the cost, or the result, but you're going to make sure you're farting through silk while you do it.

Burning Our Money reports a session of the Public Accounts Committee, questioning Jonathan Stephens, DCMS Permanent Secretary and principal departmental accounting officer

They quote at length and I'm going to do so too so even those who can't be bothered to click through can see what our cash is being spent on, and the level of accountability that exists. Now, this man works for me, he's paid by my taxes and I'm sacking him. Go on, fuck off.

Oh, that's right. I can't sack him. He's fucking untouchable.

Q68 Greg Clark: Mr. Stephens, why does the Football Licensing Authority, which employs six staff, need an office costing £180,000 a year?

Mr. Stephens: That certainly is an outlier. I understand that it has, for a small number of staff, comparatively large meeting and conference facilities used for meetings. A number of other staff of the Football Licensing Authority work from home.

Q69 Greg Clark: There are six inspectors who occasionally use it for meetings. Is it acceptable, in your view, that an organisation employing six people and six peripatetic inspectors needs an office costing £180,000 a year?

Mr. Stephens: If there is scope for significant savings-

Greg Clark: Do you think it is justified?

Mr. Stephens: It is easy to look at accommodation costs, but, as the report brings out, to realise savings within those costs is a very different matter.

Q70 Greg Clark: That was not the question, Mr. Stephens... Do you think that that represents value for money?

Mr. Stephens: Well, I am-and I am responsible for value for money across the whole of the DCMS's spend.

Greg Clark: But specifically, does that offer value for money?

Mr. Stephens: Realising savings depends on when-

Greg Clark: I have not mentioned savings, Mr. Stephens.

Mr. Stephens: I am very happy to look at that.

Greg Clark: I do not want you to look at it; I want you, as accounting officer, to tell me whether £180,000 a year in rent for the Football Licensing Authority represents value for money. You are the accounting officer; I assume you have a view on it.

Mr. Stephens: Well-

Greg Clark: Yes or no? Is it value for money?

Mr. Stephens: Let me explain the background. The cost is particularly high because the staff complement has recently fallen from nine to six.

Greg Clark: From nine to six!

Mr. Stephens: That is a reduction of one third in the complement. The accommodation includes a large meeting room that is used regularly by the board, the inspectors, football authorities and so on.

Q72 Greg Clark: Are not meeting rooms available in most offices?

Mr. Stephens: It is a matter of proportion to the staff employed.

Q73 Greg Clark: We are not getting anywhere on this. It is a simple question: does it offer value for money? As accounting officer, will you tell the Committee whether it does: yes or no?

Mr. Stephens: I am satisfied that the Football Licensing Authority is currently discharging its responsibilities properly and is giving value for money.

Greg Clark: So you are unable to say, as accounting officer for an organisation under your command-

Mr. Stephens: That does not mean that there is not scope for improvements going forward. As a new accounting officer I am keen to use this report to secure improvements in value for money.

Q74 Greg Clark: As you are new to the post, there is all the more reason for you to be able to answer straightforwardly. You did not negotiate the lease, I am sure. Does it not therefore strike you-with a fresh pair of eyes-as it strikes me and perhaps other Committee members, that £180,000 for an organisation that has six people working in it is excessive, and is a waste of money?

Mr. Stephens: It is an outlier.

Greg Clark: And it is the outlier that I am asking about. Surely if it is an outlier you are able to express an opinion about it.... We are time-limited, so let me ask you another question: can you tell me where the office is?

Mr. Stephens: No, I do not know, I am afraid.

Chairman: There must be somebody behind who does.

Mr. Stephens: We can certainly write to you to let you know.

Chairman: Come on, tell us. You have all these civil servants there, tell us where the office is.

Q76 Greg Clark: Can I tell you where it is? It is in Cavendish Square, W1. Can you explain why the Football Licensing Authority, which, as far as I understand, licenses football stands and stadiums for health and safety compliance, needs to be in one of the most prestigious and expensive locations in London?

Mr. Stephens: I cannot tell you the basis for the original decision.
Outlier? OUTLIER??? What the fuck does that mean, you complacent cunt?

How about: "Yes, that's indefensible, I'll sort it out immediately"?

How about: "My word, yes. People are taxed into bankruptcy to fund this sort of excess. Heads will roll"?

How about a single, solitary straight answer from a civil servant about government waste and excess just once, in my lifetime?

I know. I've lost you there, rambling into fantasy.

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