The Code of Good Practice for partnerships between government departments and public bodies was published by the Cabinet Office in February 2017. The Code was developed by a working group of departmental and ALB representatives, as a response to the findings of a National Audit Office review of and subsequent Public Accounts Committee hearing into the oversight of public bodies, which highlighted a lack of consistency across government departments.
To encourage better relationships and in support of the Code, the Public Chairs’ Forum (PCF), the Association of Chief Executives (ACE) and the Institute for Government sent a survey to chairs and chief executives of public bodies, to assess their current relationships with their departments. The survey questions were based around the four principles of the Code: purpose, assurance, value and engagement. This report highlights the key findings of the survey.
Overall, the organisations reported largely positive working relationships with their departments. However, the results demonstrate great diversity in approach. Positive findings to arise from the survey include:
• the wide use of framework documents
• a mutual understanding of risk
• strong levels of information sharing
• agreed processes for reviewing governance arrangements.
However, responses also demonstrate many areas for improvement, including the need for:
• greater consistency in the approach taken by departments to working with their public bodies
• greater use and publication of performance agreements to improve public accountability
• increased efforts to avoid duplicate requests for information • more opportunities to share skills and expertise in the development of policy
• attracting talent to the sponsorship teams within departments and retaining that talent.
The results also highlight the necessity of better cross-government working beyond the direct public body–department relationship, including strategic engagement with HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office on cross-government directives. The principles of the Code present a good opportunity to improve the relationships between public bodies and departments. This report shows that there are several areas of good practice that are not yet being realised, however the Code could make a real difference when the principles once embedded.
You can read the full report here.