MPs recommend improvements to Futurebuilders and Capacitybuilders

Public Accounts Committee says both were poorly managed and badly planned

A committee of MPs has published 10 recommendations for improving Futurebuilders and Capacitybuilders, after accusing those responsible for the organisations of failing to follow even basic good practice.

In its report, Building the Capacity of the Third Sector, the Public Accounts Committee says the programmes were badly planned, poorly managed and lacked proper evaluation.

The programmes were set up by the Government at a cost of £446m to strengthen voluntary sector infrastructure between 2004 and 2011, and are the responsibility of the Office of the Third Sector. The report says they have done some good but have not yet demonstrated value for money.

"The fact that these initiatives were experimental is no excuse," said committee chairman Edward Leigh. "It is unacceptable that these significant and expensive programmes were set up without any proper targets for measuring their performance.

"The poor preparation for the programmes and the absence of effective evaluation do not contribute to the credit of the Cabinet Office."

The PAC’s recommendations follow a report by the National Audit Office in February, which criticised administration of the programmes and labelled them wasteful.

The PAC report recommends that the Cabinet Office and associated bodies, including the OTS, show greater clarity around terms and conditions of funding and investment and more prompt and timely decision-making to avoid the uncertainty and delays that dogged the ChangeUp national hubs, which funded infrastructure projects before Capacitybuilders was set up in 2006.

The Cabinet Office should ensure that proper evaluation is built into the design of all its programmes and develop meaningful indicators and targets, the report says.

The MPs say Capacitybuilders’ processes still do not appear to be working adequately and satisfaction among funding recipients is low. The report says the body, which funds regional and local infrastructure consortia, should address these concerns as a matter of urgency.

Futurebuilders, the £215m loan fund, should track the burden of the application process on applicants on an ongoing basis, say the MPs.

The committee questioned Campbell Robb, director-general of the Office of the Third Sector, Jonathan Lewis, chief executive of Futurebuilders, and Matt Leach, chief executive of Capacitybuilders, in April after the NAO report was published.

In a statement last week, the OTS said it was taking significant steps with its partners to continue our work in improving these services.

Jonathan Lewis, chief executive of Futurebuilders England, which has managed the fund through the Adventure Capital Fund since 2007, said it had dramatically improved the application and assessment process and would continue to improve the experience of applicants.

A spokeswoman for Capacitybuilders said it would respond to the report in the autumn. She said the organisation was continuing to improve its performance.

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