Select Committee on Education and Skills Third Special Report


Appendix to Sub-Appendix B

LESSONS LEARNED

Programme management arrangements

1.   All stages of policy should be developed under project/programme management disciplines. These disciplines should be introduced from the start of policy developments to ensure consistency and the earliest possible introduction of rigorous control and review mechanisms. This would help to identify key information needs as early as possible and to plan available time to most effectively help inform and support delivery.

Resourcing

2.   Senior staff responsible for programmes/projects should have sufficient time built into their roles to give appropriate consideration to the key policy issues and options that arise and the decisions that need to be made.

3.   A flexible approach to resourcing programmes is necessary. The ability to move additional staff to "hot-spots" is essential. It is vital to ensure that staff with appropriate skills are in place, particularly in key areas supporting delivery, such as programme and risk management, contract management and financial control. Where external expertise is needed, the role they are required to fulfil should be clearly defined.

Business Modelling

4.   Business processes should be modelled and examined for strengths and weaknesses before the design is finalised. This will provide more reliable information on which to assess risks, evidence to base decisions on and determine the management information MI needed to monitor performance, costs and risks. The business model should include a financial model to help determine the cost implications of policy options and support monitoring after implementation.

Risk identification and management procedures

5.   Early identification of risks is essential to determine the level of acceptability of these risks to management (i.e. the "risk appetite"). Countermeasures commensurate with the risks should be identified, designed, and implemented. Active risk management should be in place to monitor the likelihood of key risks occurring and to take action to minimise their impact. Named teams/individuals should have responsibility for the ongoing management of each risk. Active issues management should continue after the implementation as an important part of performance management.

6.   All policy developments should take proper account of propriety and value for money issues and consider the risk and implications of fraudulent and improper activity. Attempts should be made to "break the system" to determine its robustness and reliability before it goes live.

7.   Ministers should be provided with clear information on the risks arising from policy options. High-risk projects/programmes should provide regular progress reports to the Audit Committee or the Board, as appropriate. If it becomes evident that the risks of proceeding with a policy could place the Accounting Officer (AO) at risk, then he must be advised immediately to enable direct intervention with Ministers, if necessary.

Contracting and contract management arrangements

8.   Clarity on the relationship with the contractor is essential, including whether the relationship is simply sub-contracting part of the management or delivery arrangements, or whether a full partnership is required. The risks to be transferred to or shared with our contractors/partners should be carefully considered and specified in the contract. In particular, there is a need for absolute clarity in our data security requirements and a clear and documented understanding of who bears the risks should security be breached. There may also be a need to include provision in contracts for rigorous testing of security arrangements.

9.   Contract specification and bidding processes must rigorously test the capability   of all bidders to meet our full operational, quality and delivery requirements.   Contract management arrangements must build on this to test contractor performance in all key delivery areas, and their ability and commitment to meet changing policy and delivery needs, should these arise.

Management information (MI) specification & performance monitoring arrangements

10.   Specification of management information (including financial and budgetary data) and reporting requirements for senior managers and Ministers should be set out clearly at the earliest possible stage in developments. This should be based on a clear picture of the environment that the policy is intended to influence and change. It is therefore important to establish reliable and relevant baseline information on the state of the environment before introducing the programme.

Financial monitoring arrangements & budgetary control procedures

11.   Demand led schemes that have a pre-determined budget limit require careful management to ensure available funds are not exceeded. Options to manage   demand must be assessed and robust management information systems developed in advance of going live. Financial monitoring arrangements should include early warning systems to highlight unexpected activity/spend and allow time to implement counter measures to maintain expenditure within acceptable limits.

Operational Management

12.   A clear vision statement for each policy/programme should be agreed with Ministers before the completion of policy design. A lack of clarity can affect partners' business planning and customers' expectations.

13.   What the individual client or sector should expect as a result of the policy being developed should be defined. In the case of ILAs, this might include the level of competence expected of providers, the level of support providers should make available to learners, reasonable pricing.

14.   From day one of implementation, there should be clear guidance to all relevant stakeholders on how to use, support, and access the system developed. This should include clear instructions on the criteria and method for making financial claims against the programme. Client satisfaction measures, and systems for analysing client complaints, as early as possible after implementation would help to provide early warnings of problems.



 
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Prepared 26 June 2002