Office for Civil Society 'consistently fails to comply with the Compact'

Criticism by senior National Audit Office employee is dismissed by government as 'nonsense'

Office for Civil Society
Office for Civil Society

A senior National Audit Office employee criticised the Office for Civil Society yesterday for "failing to show leadership on the Compact".

John Hoadley, a member of the spending watchdog's civil society and commissioning value for money team, said the OCS "seemed to have observed the Compact in the breach more than anything".

Hoadley's team is due to begin a four-month investigation into the implementation of the Compact in April.

He made his comments yesterday during a speech at an event in Leeds on public and voluntary sector partnership working organised by Compact Voice, which represents the voluntary sector on the Compact.

"If the Compact is going to be effective, it does require leadership," said Hoadley. "It's not there. The OCS is consistently not Compact-compliant.

"One would expect it to lead by example across government to ensure the Compact is the force it could and should be. If there's no leadership at national level, I don't see how that can impact at local level other than negatively."

In December, Compact Voice criticised the OCS, which champions the Compact in government, for giving interested parties just 17 working days to comment on the Modernising Commissioning green paper.

The renewed Compact, published in December, recommends 12-week consultations.

Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, announced the NAO investigation into the Compact when the publication was renewed as part of a series of measures to provide an "unprecedented level of scrutiny of the Compact".

Its report, due in July, is likely to be scrutinised by parliament.

Hoadley, who helped to compile the NAO report Building the Capacity of the Third Sector in 2009, said the NAO considered "a number of issues" before agreeing to investigate the Compact.

Among them was the fact that the investigation was requested by Hurd. The NAO, said Hoadley, was an independent body and set its own agenda.

The Commission for the Compact had wanted to make annual reports to parliament on the Compact, but it is being disbanded at the end of this month.

"We were worried that government was merely asking us to take on the work of other bodies," Hoadley said.

He said the NAO eventually decided that investigating the Compact fitted its strategy and that the comptroller and auditor-general, Amyas Morse, would "do this on his terms, independently".

The investigation will consider how the government has implemented Compact principles, identify good practice and make recommendations to the OCS.

Hoadley also revealed the NAO was likely to publish reports next month on mutuals and social enterprises that have transferred from the public sector and on the relationship between non-departmental public bodies and civil society organisations.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "This is nonsense. We observe the Compact in all our dealings with the sector. Furthermore, we’ve made it an early priority to improve accountability across government."

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