10 Dec 2003
10 Dec 2003
“Measuring and comparing the performance of schools are vital to the task of improving the education of our children. The Department and Ofsted are now able to take into account the influence of external factors in order to analyse the difference that schools make to the academic achievements of their pupils. This provides a more robust and objective assessment of the relative performance of schools, and gives policy makers a firmer basis for targeting their efforts on those schools most in need of support.”
28 Nov 2003
“Customs and Excise have made good progress in getting their electronic service delivery programme underway. The programme is, however, at the early stage of its development and there is a long way to go to translate the strategy and plans into performance improvements on the ground. An IT programme of this magnitude inevitably presents some large risks and our report recommends to Customs how to address these risks.”
20 Nov 2003
“I applaud the work done so far by Regional Development Agencies and the work done by the DTI to reduce the burdens on them. This report will better enable them to carry out their important business and it provides case examples from which RDAs and government can learn. I intend to work closely with them in the future to ensure that the full benefits of my recommendations are realised.”
19 Nov 2003
“The significant level of overpayment of Working Families’ and Disabled Person’s Tax Credit – potentially some 10 to 14 percent – is cause for serious concern and I have qualified my audit opinion.
“The level of problems caused to tax credit claimants and employers as the new tax credit systems went live in April 2003 demonstrated that there were undetected gaps in the design of the testing regime for the systems.
“The Inland Revenue must pay particular attention to ensuring that recovery from the problems with new tax credits does not undermine the Department’s reputation for integrity and accuracy when dealing with taxpayers’ affairs. This reputation is essential to the effective assessment and collection of tax.”
19 Nov 2003
“The project to provide online access to the 1901 census was ambitious and, ultimately, successful. In implementing the project, the Public Record Office and its contractor QinetiQ encountered a number of problems which they managed to resolve eventually. It is important that the wider public sector learns the lessons from this project when implementing projects to provide access to services online. Looking forward, the National Archives should also consider these lessons if it decides to provide online access to the results of the 1911 census.”
14 Nov 2003
“Information on the movement of animals around the country is of vital importance in the fight to prevent the spread of animal disease, all the more so when there is a serious outbreak. It is also vital to consumers confidence in the food that they eat. The animal identification and tracking systems in place at present have helped to protect public health but both systems are in need of improvement.
“For both of its current systems and in the implementation of its new Livestock Identification and Tracing Programme, Defra should work with the livestock industry to improve levels of data accuracy and encourage the use of online methods of communicating information.”
12 Nov 2003
Getting it right, putting it right – Improving decision-making and appeals in social security benefits
“While more than 90 per cent of payments are accurate, more than a fifth of the Department of Work and Pensions thousands of decisions each day on benefits contain errors. Although the number represents less than one per cent of decisions, a quarter of a million people a year go to an appeal tribunal and 40 per cent of these cases are changed in favour of the customer. Customers are also having to wait too long for the outcome. The Department could not only reduce the number of cases where customers have to go through stressful appeals but also save money for the taxpayer, if they got more decisions right first time and put right errors effectively.
“The Department should make improving decision-making a priority in their ongoing programme of organisational change. By focusing more on good quality evidence and effective communication, and setting minimum service standards, they can help to ensure that customers across the country know what to expect from the system and have increased confidence in it.”
7 Nov 2003
“Where patient safety is considered to be at risk or there are allegations of misconduct, it is vitally important for NHS trusts to be able to exclude clinical staff from work or restrict their activities so that the situation can be thoroughly and promptly investigated. At present, however, there is evidence of many cases of exclusion being allowed to drift on without resolution or proper management. This represents a serious waste of resources for the NHS and can harm the career and even personal well-being of the accused clinicians themselves.
“The Department of Health should now take further steps to achieve a system for managing the exclusion of clinical staff in which both staff and patients can have confidence.”
6 Nov 2003
“Disasters, both natural and man-made, are occurring much more frequently around the world. The Department for International Development is a leading player in the response to such emergencies and its provision of help in the aftermath of suddenly occurring disasters is widely recognised by other donors and organisations. The Department should, however, take steps to improve the targeting, monitoring and evaluation of the assistance it provides.”
5 Nov 2003