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Auditors have found that more than 1 in 5 local public bodies do not have proper arrangements in place to secure value for money for taxpayers, according to the latest Public Accounts Committee report, published today.
The numbers are worst for local NHS bodies such as Clinical Commissioning Groups and Hospital Trusts, where 38% did not have proper arrangements.
The PAC report says that some local bodies are also not putting enough information in the public domain about their performance, including reports from their external auditors.
The news comes after the PAC released its report into Clinical Commissioning Groups, and its concerns about the impact on patient outcomes if their performance does not improve.
Chair of the PAC Meg Hillier said: “Standards must improve significantly as CCGs take on the commissioning of services across larger populations.”
The latest report states: "Central departments need 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. As a committee committed to transparency we conclude that there is a need for a step change in transparency by local bodies. This is particularly the case for many NHS bodies.
"Local bodies should also be taking auditors’ concerns seriously and addressing them promptly, but there appear to be few consequences for those who do not. Even where local auditors use their additional reporting powers to highlight failings, this does not always lead to the bodies taking immediate action. While there is more for local bodies to do in acting on auditors’ findings, there is also a role for central government departments in holding local bodies to account for their performance and management. All central government departments state they are fully aware of issues being reported locally, but when significant concerns are highlighted at individual bodies, central departments are not doing enough to make sure that local bodies take prompt corrective action, or to share learning that could help other bodies avoid the same problems.
"As more public bodies work together to deliver services the landscape for audit is becoming more complicated. Auditors can audit one public body but not the relationship between the two."
Commenting on today's report, Meg Hillier said: "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."
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