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Civil Service World this week reports on an interview it had with Prof Gary Sturgess, Australia and New Zealand School of Government chair of public service delivery at the University of New South Wales (who was doing a Public Service Transformation Academy (PSTA) workshop on contracting). They talk about why the UK public sector skills gap and unrealistic expectations mean outsourcing is failing to deliver, and how Whitehall needs to up its game on public service contracting and commissioning. He says “A number of the private providers have not covered themselves with glory, but the settings of this market in terms of the reality of the finance available and the quality of the contracts and of relationships, government bears a huge amount of responsibility … My position is that since this is government supply chain, government had better step up to the plate and accept that it has the responsibility for the quality of these services.” He continues that while competitive tendering is an “extraordinarily successful tool” for driving down cost, a significant amount of work is required to ensure the ongoing delivery of quality services, and that deliverability is addressed as well as cost. “In some cases it is a reluctance to accept responsibility for system-level interventions, or system stewardship,” he says. This quite a long discussion which suggests both civil servants and ministers have to take more responsibility, but it’s well worth a read, and you can access the whole article here.

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