Headlines: October 26th, 2004

Three quarters of central government departments have risk strategies in place for key areas, but many are not well developed, nor are they understood by staff. Training is lagging behind strategy development and a critical mass of staff have not yet developed skills and expertise to manage risks effectively. The National Audit Office in the report Managing Risk to Improve Service Deliver calls on departments to make effective risk management a central part of their day to day general management processes.The NAO, whilst applauding many examples of innovative approaches to risk and risk management, is concerned that public bodies are focused on developing a culture of active, explicit and systematic risk management. It wants decisions made by civil servants and other public officials to be routinely based around accurate and well informed judgements about risk.

The report highlights the benefits of managing risks effectively and the consequences of failing to do so. Early identification of potential risks and having the means to take early action to deal with them safeguards Public Service Agreement targets, programmes and projects from slippage and budget overrun.

Risk management can also contribute to sustained improvements in services by bringing a flexibility and resilience to the way services are delivered. This may include adapting to changes in expectations of citizens or other service users, or maintaining services through regular appraisal of delivery mechanisms and being ready to act in the event of the unexpected, by careful planning and testing of business continuity arrangements.

A report from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister published in August 2003 found that there is a competency gap in local government in risk management, particularly a failure to challenge existing ways of delivering services and willingness to implement radical changes.

Link: http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/nao_reports/03-04/03041078.pdf .