Why do we need the head of a megabusiness to tell us government is wasteful? Any old Meercat would do. The point, surely, when a worthy who runs BHS and the rest tells us government fails to do even procurement right, is that we are so crap we can’t even follow basic textbook principles in buying.
It’s not quite as ‘simples’ as it may seem sometimes. Universities make staff buy through approved sellers, often meaning the memory stick you need now and could get for £14 at Staples or £4 on Ebay or Mohammed down the road, comes in at £30 a month after you need it. This looks incredibly dumb, but then you find out these over-priced suppliers are not owned, as you thought, by the Vice Principal’s mistress, but give the central funding people a kick-back (discount) at the end of the year. So your project spend of £50K on computers and bits and bats leads to a discount of £25K for the university, and you with audit evidence for your funding of £50K. Effectively, the university legally steals lots of money like this. Subsidies are everywhere, even in the US 0f honest competition A. There, military research subsidises commercial aircraft design and so on.
European money is the most stupid as a rule. They will give you 50% (whatever number is in vogue) of what you need if you can come up with match funding. This match funding may come from a grant from a research council, but is rarely ‘cash’. You build a spreadsheet of labour contributions from staff who will never really do the work (you find work on other projects and double count it and so on; or pay staff for one real hour and claim 20). You can include private firms and local authorities. By the time all this bureaucracy is done, it’s hardly surprising to find the only projects left going have spent £50K producing a video of how to to a crust on a pie. Two staff will be off sick with the fatigue caused by dealing with GONW, NWDA, Eurotrash Audits RUS and mad people in your own accounts department. Academics will be pissed off with you because you ask them to work for nothing. On paper, you will have created 100 jobs, safeguarded 200 more and so on. In reality, two or three project workers have had jobs and maybe you’ve done a few meetings, conferences and so on. Europe likes NVQs, so maybe you left a few certificates on buses and trains, or sent them to people at random through the phone book – God save you if you give any away outside your objective area.
We don;t need a Mr. Green to tell us about all this waste. It’s bloody obvious. I ceased to be a cop 30 years ago. Even then, it had been noticed central buying of cars might save money.
Vote Meercat! The ‘simples’ in all this concerns putting a lot of simple things straight and finding ways to do business efficiently without screwing everyone into unemployment. The Greeks banned the export of everything other than olive oil, so landowners grew less grain and panted more olive trees. Athens still went hungry despite its grain export ban. These are ancient problems and we don’t need great leaders to find the problems. They are the problem, along with our credulous reverence of them.