Report on Creating Effective Partnerships between Government and the Voluntary and Community Sector

Committee: Public Accounts

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Reference: NIA 24/11-15

ISBN: 978-0-339-60412-4

Mandate Report Number: 2011/15

Together with the Minutes of Proceedings of the Committee relating to the Report, Minutes of Evidence, and Written Submissions

Powers

The Public Accounts Committee is a Standing Committee established in accordance with Standing Orders under Section 60(3) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. It is the statutory function of the Public Accounts Committee to consider the accounts, and reports on accounts laid before the Assembly.

The Public Accounts Committee is appointed under Assembly Standing Order No. 56 of the Standing Orders for the Northern Ireland Assembly. It has the power to send for persons, papers and records and to report from time to time. Neither the Chairperson nor Deputy Chairperson of the Committee shall be a member of the same political party as the Minister of Finance and Personnel or of any junior minister appointed to the Department of Finance and Personnel.

The Committee has 11 members including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson and a quorum of 5.

Executive Summary

1. The Voluntary and Community Sector (the Sector) makes a significant and valuablecontribution to improving society and delivering public services through its dedicatedworkforce and volunteers.

2. An effective relationship between the Sector and public bodies, built around partnershipand mutual trust and respect, is essential. However, this has not always been the case.A wide range of Government departments, agencies and other public bodies form workingrelationships with, and provide funding to, voluntary and community organisations. As aconsequence the public sector’s relationship with the Sector is complex. This has contributedto over-bureaucratic, disproportionate and risk-averse approaches to monitoring of fundingand lack of focus on what is actually being delivered.

3. The need to change this has been clear for years; many good practice guides and statementsof principles have been in place over the years but have not been applied consistently bypublic bodies and the Sector.

4. The Concordat between Government and the Sector offers another opportunity for a freshstart. However, it must go beyond fine words; there needs to be a concerted effort by allpublic bodies and Sector organisations to actively implement and live by its values andprinciples.

5. The Committee expects to see tangible evidence of improvements. These need to be basedon practical actions aimed at reducing the level of bureaucracy through the adoption of proportionate monitoring and audit; focus on outcomes; and ensuring funding is agreed andpayments released to organisations on a timely basis.

6. The Department for Social Development (DSD) has an important role to play in this context.However, the recommendations from this report are not only for DSD; they are for alldepartments and public bodies. It is evident to the Committee that there is an urgent needfor a joined-up approach, particularly in relation to funding. This will require new ways ofthinking. For example, while a body such as MENCAP provides a very important and valuableservice across NI, Government must look closely at how funding is provided to it – continuingwith multiple funding streams to one organisation is inefficient and untenable.

7. The Committee welcomes the proposed arrangement to report annually on the working of theConcordat and sees this as an opportunity to drive forward change and improve accountability.

Download the full report here

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