Government claims shared services plan for Whitehall still on track despite National Audit Office report on savings shortfall

The government has insisted its shared services agenda is on track despite a critical report by the public spending watchdog on the lack of progress.

The National Audit Office (NAO) found government departments had been slow to adopt shared services, and were unlikely to save the predicted £1.4bn a year.

Shared services combine corporate functions, including human resources, to boost efficiency savings and improve service. Although programmes were progressing across Whitehall, savings reported so far were relatively small.

As of March 2007, departments reported annual savings across all corporate service functions of £1bn, £315m of which related to finance and HR, the NAO said. But there had been limited progress in measuring the performance of corporate services, or demonstrating how shared services can improve things.

A spokesman for the Shared Services Team, part of the Cabinet Office, maintained progress was being made. “The Cabinet Office is promoting the use of shared corporate services across Whitehall. More than half of all central government staff now benefit from corporate shared services.” But the spokesman admitted the Cabinet Office had no power to ‘order’ other departments to adopt shared services.

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