An independent commission, set up last year, has published ‘Good Governance Standards for the Public Sector’. The publication is a response to a report from the Office for Public management in 2003 which showed severe weaknesses in the governance of public bodies. The report looked across the public sector including police, schools, health service, quangos and local government, which in total spend some 500 billion pounds annually. It found that many governors were unclear about the process of governance and confused about their responsibilities.The independent commission, chaired by Sir Alan Langlands, was set up by the Office for Public Management, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The document sets out a framework of governance principles which can be applied across the public sector. The guidance for the 450,000 people responsible for governance of the UK public bodies is designed to be flexible to respond to the ever changing public service landscape. It includes a self assessment model that allows organisations to benchmark their current performance and develop plans for improvement.
The standards follow the model of the private sector’s ‘Combined Code’ which relies on voluntary compliance without any legal status. It is expected that compliance will be promoted by regulatory bodies, such as the National Audit Office, who have endorsed the document. It is also expected that public bodies will be expected to report on their governance performance. Pressure to implement the standards will also come from members of the public and their representatives who are given guidance in the document to assess and challenge performance.
The standards will also be used to revise existing codes and later in the year CIPFA and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives will use the document to revise governance standards for local government.