National Audit Office calls on government to adopt more creative ways of working

The government needs to become more innovative in the way it operates, according to the National Audit Office (NAO)

While Whitehall departments are tackling a culture of risk aversion and improving the quality and efficiency of services, they could still reap greater benefits with more innovative approaches to their work, the spending watchdog’s report said.

The NAO looked at 125 developments from 85 government bodies, and discovered that while some of the projects demanded large budgets, the average cost was less than £1m.

The report, Achieving Innovation in Central Government Organisations, said that departments and agencies had addressed the culture of “risk passivity”, but that an aversion to risk lower down the scale was still common.

Recruitment of people from outside the Civil Service was spreading awareness of other ways of working, but incentives were needed to encourage staff to develop or promote innovations, it said.

Sir John Bourn, head of the NAO, said: “Much work has been done to drive forward operational innovations within the Civil Service. But harnessing a new culture was not easy.

“Senior managers are providing leadership to change, but implementing structural changes will not be achieved by dropping initiatives from on high, but rather by creating a supportive environment where all staff are encouraged to make suggestions for change.”

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