“There is a need for a step change in transparency by local public bodies and particularly those in the NHS, MPs have said.
In a report, Auditing local government, the Public Accounts Committee noted that in 2017-18, auditors found that more than 1 in 5 local public bodies did not have proper arrangements in place to secure value for money for taxpayers.
“The numbers are worst for local NHS bodies such as clinical commissioning groups and hospital trusts, where 38% did not have proper arrangements,” it said.
The MPs added that some local bodies were not putting enough information in the public domain about their performance, including reports from their external auditors.
The report called on central government departments to make clear their expectations, “not only for what is made publicly available, but also for making the information accessible to users and so helping citizens to hold local bodies to account”.
The PAC said there appeared to be few consequences for those local bodies who did not take auditors’ concerns seriously and address them promptly. “Even where local auditors use their additional reporting powers to highlight failings, this does not always lead to the bodies taking immediate action.”
The report also recorded the MPs’ concern that, as partnership working becomes more complex, accountability arrangements will be weakened, and the performance of individual local bodies will become less transparent.
Meg Hillier MP, chair of the committee, said: “Taxpayers must be assured that their money is well-spent but in too many cases local bodies cannot properly safeguard value. Particularly concerning are NHS bodies such as Clinical Commissioning Groups and hospital trusts: last year almost two in five did not have adequate arrangements.
“As we reported last week, many CCGs are underperforming and this must improve as they take on responsibility for commissioning services across larger populations.”
Hillier added: “It is vital that local bodies take auditors’ concerns seriously, address them swiftly and ensure meaningful information on performance is made accessible to the public.
“Our report sets out ways central government can help to drive improvements at local level and we urge it to respond positively to our recommendations.” …”