The Committee questioned the Chief Executive and Chair of the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) on the organisation’s role in coordinating careers and enterprise support and the delivery of the Government’s careers strategy. The CEC was established as an independent social enterprise in 2015 with the aim of supporting schools and colleges in improving their careers guidance for those aged 12 to 18:https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/education-committee/news-parliament-2017/accountability-hearings-evidence-17-195/
22nd May 2018
The Careers and Enterprise Company – A Bit more Transparency Required from this Taxpayer Funded Body
The Careers and Enterprise Company must have felt somewhat relieved when their recent evidence session with the Select Committee ended. The Committee was less than impressed by the CEC’s transparency, accountability and the way it measures (or doesn’t ,as the case may be) its outcomes. No board minutes are published for example.
Not much either on how the funding it gets from the DfE is given out and what specific projects it spends it on. It also spends, and intends to continue to spend, yearly, at least £ 1million on research. There is much waffle about stakeholders being kept informed, but if you drill down a bit they are keeping people a bit informed about inputs, rather than substantive outputs and their impact on young people. So bruised were the CEC after the session that they asked their Twitter friends to send out positive messages about what a great job they are doing. Oh, dear!
Unfortunately, this is how quangos too often behave, because they can. They have no direct accountability in the way a government department, or indeed, a Minister has. You see quangos, such as CEC are’ arms -length organisations’. Always claiming to be ‘independent organisations’, in practice they are no such thing. They are appointed by the government and taxpayer funded, through DfE. What the government gives, it can take away, of course, and relying entirely on taxpayer funding, obviously have to be very closely aligned with, and supportive of, current government policy. That is not independence in any meaningful sense of the word.
When the CEC was established by Nicky Morgan she said that over time, the company would become self-funded, with employers covering the company’s costs. Yet, here we are three years down the road, with the CEC still firmly on the governments books. Indeed, the government has gone terribly quiet about the self-funding commitment.
Organisations that are funded by the taxpayer should be transparent and fully accountable for how they spend taxpayer’s money. They should also have to demonstrate clearly the impact and value for money they offer. Telling MPs how many interactions you have is about quantity, not quality, or impact. And, of course, they should publish the minutes of board meetings and abide by the principles of sound governance. It is worrying that the CEC needs to be told the facts of life on this score, by the Select Committee. Careers guidance providers and schools, seeking to follow recent strengthened guidance, look with growing envy on the scale of funding being allocated to this quango. Not surprisingly they feel short changed, by comparison, and it is they not the CEC that are delivering front line services to young people. Shouldn’t we be more careful about how we use relatively scarce taxpayers’ money and allocate it where it will have most immediate impact on the lives and opportunities of young people.? Bit radical I know, and left field, but it has to be said.