The 12-year-old public and voluntary sector partnership agreement has frequently been criticised for lacking teeth, but the publication of an accountability and transparency guide to accompany the new, shorter version of the agreement, aims to tackle this.
The guide, which was announced yesterday by civil society minister Nick Hurd, says:
- The National Audit Office will conduct a review into the effectiveness of the Compact in the new year to identify good practice and areas for improvement. This will lead to recommendations about longer-term accountability structures
- The Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Local Government Ombudsman will have the power to investigate and report alleged breaches of the Compact
- Government departments from 2012/13 will be required to include a statement on how the Compact is being implemented in their business plans
Hurd told guests at the Christmas reception of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Civil Society (and Volunteering) that the new measures would provide an unprecedented level of scrutiny of the Compact.
"This sends out a strong message across Whitehall about the importance of the Compact," he said.
Simon Blake, chair of Compact Voice, established to represent the voluntary sector on the Compact, said: "The sector has wanted a Compact with teeth for a long time. This new Compact with greater accountability provides just that."
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, described the renewed Compact and associated measures as "a significant step forward in the sector's relationship with government".
"We are particularly pleased that the National Audit Office and the Parliamentary Ombudsman will be playing a role in holding government to account in its implementation of the Compact.
"How the government complies with the Compact in the next few months will be more important than ever."