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Opaque, unaccountable public appointments to quangos risk their reputations and ability to deliver

24 September 2021

Arm’s-length bodies (ALBs) are responsible for spending approximately £265 billion a year of taxpayers’ money. But in a report today the Public Accounts Committee says progress on long-promised reforms and a big cut in the number of ‘quangos’ as they are also known “has been limited”.

The Cabinet Office has “not been enforcing the code for public appointments” - risking the transparency and accountability of the public appointments process and impacting the reputations of the ALBs those appointments lead. 

The Cabinet Office also “does little to monitor” whether the Code of Practice, intended to rein in and rationalise the use of ALBs, is actually being followed by departments - and the Committee says Government must overhaul how it devises the business cases for new ALBs: “If there is ever to be real progress in the governance of ALBs, the Cabinet Office must place greater emphasis on ensuring these business plans are correct and in order rather than trying to reform an ALB once established.”

Chair's comment

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said:

“The famous ‘bonfire of the quangos’ of a decade ago notably failed to spark and in fact we’ve seen Government wave through half-baked business cases for arms-length bodies too often since.  The public appointments to lead these bodies lack transparency and accountability to an extent that poses a real risk to the reputation of the organisation and so to how Government delivers objectives using them.

Government must begin to properly account for the vast £265 billion of taxpayers’ money a year spent by ALBs, starting at the point of why they’re set up in the first place, and demonstrate who is genuinely the best person to lead and deliver through an open, fair and transparent public appointments process.”

Further information

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