Gove brands PAC and NAO the 'fiercest forces of conservatism'

Education secretary Michael Gove has attacked the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the National Audit Office (NAO) as “forces of conservatism” that discourage risk-taking and innovation.

By Civil Service World

01 Nov 2012

In a speech to the Politea think tank last week, he said: “Far too often the Whitehall machine is risk averse. Media commentary rarely allows early errors to be seen in context as experiments which will generate improvements. And the NAO and PAC, the most influential watchdogs in the country, are some of our fiercest forces of conservatism.”

“Time after time the NAO and PAC report in a way which treats any mistake in the implementation of any innovation as a scandalous waste of public money which prudent decision-making should have avoided. And yet at the same time it treats the faults of current provision as unalterable facts of nature,” he said.

In response, NAO chief Amyas Morse said his organisation “does not accept that there is a trade-off between favouring innovation and caring about value for money.”

“Parliament, representing the taxpayer, is entitled to expect projects to demonstrate both innovation and value for money. It can be wrong to keep on digging when you are in a hole,” he added.

PAC chair Margaret Hodge said: “Our priority is to champion the interests of hard-working taxpayers and we won’t allow ourselves to be intimidated by false accusations by government when we light upon inconvenient truths.

“Of course we support innovation. The only way departments will be effective in dealing with deficit reduction is to find new ways of working, but the government cannot use the badge of ‘innovation’ to disguise incompetence,” she added.

See also: Editorial

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