Committee says charity support programmes suffered from bad management

July 20, 2009 at 12:27 pm Leave a comment

whitehall
Two Cabinet Office programmes designed to build up the expertise and resources of third sector organisations were failed by a lack of good practice and project management.

The Public Accounts Committee has produced a report on ChangeUp and Futurebuilders.

They are the responsibility of the Office of the Third Sector, part of the Cabinet Office. Together the programmes will cost almost £450 million to 2011.

ChangeUp gives funding to regional and local support providers to form partnerships or ‘consortia’ to work to provide services to make frontline organisations more effective.

It is managed by an executive non-departmental public body, Capacitybuilders. The total cost of the programme will be £231 million by 2011.

Futurebuilders is a £215 million investment fund that invests directly in frontline third sector organisations that would otherwise not have access to commercial sources of finance.

It enables them to build their capacity and bid for public service delivery contracts. Income from these contracts is then used to repay the investment. It is managed under contract by Futurebuilders England Fund Management.

Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said:

“Those responsible for ChangeUp and Futurebuilders, two Cabinet Office programmes introduced to build up the expertise and resources of third sector organisations, failed to follow even basic good practice in programme and project management.

“The fact that these initiatives were experimental is no excuse.

“ChangeUp, which provides support networks for third sector bodies, got going far too slowly. As a result, most of the £80 million funding intended to be spent over three years had to be spent in a rush, in a single year. This led to waste, poor value for money and difficulties for funded organizations.

“Futurebuilders, designed to lend money to frontline third sector organizations without access to commercial finance, has also suffered difficulties. The application process for a loan was too long at first and cost both the fund and applicants too much.

“Planning has also been poor, with little thought being given to how taxpayers’ substantial and long-term interest in the programme’s loan book is to be protected.

“It is unacceptable that these significant and expensive programmes were set up without any proper targets for measuring their performance.

“Both have had some good effect but neither has yet demonstrated value for money.

“Indeed, given the difficulties in identifying and allocating costs and in identifying and measuring benefits, judging their value for money is going to be no easy task.

“The poor preparation for these programmes and the absence of effective evaluation do not contribute to the credit of the Cabinet Office, especially given the central role it plays in making government work better.”

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