DEPARTMENTS’ OVERSIGHT OF ARM’S LENGTH BODIES: A COMPARATIVE STUDY

DEPARTMENTS’ OVERSIGHT OF ARM’S LENGTH BODIES: A COMPARATIVE STUDY
July 01 2016

The National Audit Office looked at four departments that oversee a large number of ALBs: Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, Ministry of Justice, Department for Environment, Department for Food & Rural Affairs, and Department for Culture, Media & Sport.

They found there is no collective understanding of what type of oversight is appropriate and cost effective for different types of arm’s-length bodies; the sector remains confused and incoherent. There is no single list of all ALBs across government nor a common understanding of when ALBs should be used, or what type of ALB is most appropriate for particular circumstances. Different departments define ALBs in different ways and some ALBs are uncertain about how they relate to their department’s objectives. The prevailing inconsistency hampers a coherent approach to overseeing ALBs that is consistent with their purpose, although the Cabinet Office is building on its Public Bodies Reform Programme and taking further steps to address this.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said:

“If one of the main reasons for having arm’s length bodies is to provide a zone of relative independence, the fact that oversight mechanisms focus predominantly on compliance and control means there is almost certainly room for improvement.”

View PCF’s response to the report here.

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