The king is dead, long live the king
As we have discussed before, the government recently announced that the mighty Audit Commission would be no more. It would cease to be, become bereft of life; it would be an ex-commission.
Or would it?
There are currently murmurs that Mr Pickles has been talking with the soon-to-disappear organisation to urge them to privatise themselves. Apparently he would like them to set up as a business and then bid in an open market to secure the contracts that they once fulfilled.
According to my not-very-secret sources:
Gareth Davies will be the new Managing Director of Audit, leading its transformation into an employee-owned organisation. He is confident that customers in the public sector would choose the new company as their auditor when given the choice and that they would fare well in the new competitive audit market. His aim is to get as big a share of the market as we can and diversify into other parts of the market such as housing associations and the voluntary sector amongst others.
I’m not sure what it is about this that doesn’t sit right with me, but it doesn’t. I know the arguments about competition driving up quality and down prices, but with a role such as this I just don’t see that happening. Who else is able to en-mass set up and deliver this range of services at the moment? Love them or not, the Audit Commission offered a huge amount of services to a huge number of huge bodies; to my knowledge no one else is in a position to do the same currently.
What I can see are many smaller organisations taking odd crumbs of the pie, delivering on a number of individual contracts whilst Audit take up the overwhelming majority and we go back to how it was before. However, this time there will be little to stop them from slowly cranking up the costs and allowing a few owners to become very, very rich thanks to the public purse. There will be very little alternative to this – if Councils don’t like it they will be told to go elsewhere only to find there is nowhere else to go to.
I know there will be a number of skilled people who will be without a job when the AC eventually does say goodbye to its current status, but by the looks of it these same people will then start earning a lot more in the private sector doing exactly the same as they did in the public.
Still, you never know; we might even see some auditing getting done after all. as long as you pay for it, that is.