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Government: Issues at Planning Department are being addressed

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ACTION is being taken to improve the Planning Department’s process for declaring conflicts of interest, monitoring of its enforcement services and transparency of decisions following a scathing report earlier this year.

Andy Scate, Acting Director General for the Growth, Housing and Environment Department (28745320)

In April, the Comptroller and Auditor-General Lynn Pamment published a report in which she heavily criticised Planning and Building Control, claiming that it was ‘substantially underperforming’ in terms of public service and that its enforcement was ‘poor’.

Her recommendations for improvement included making planning decisions more transparent and introducing structured arrangements to clearly record conflicts of interest.

In a formal response published this week, Growth, Housing and Environment acting director-general Andy Scate said that work was being carried out to address all of the flagged issues.

‘The report outlines the importance of declaring conflicts of interest. I can confirm that formal notifications of conflicts are now expected across all of the regulation directorate services and are recorded centrally,’ the response says.

‘I do, however, acknowledge that more can be done to ensure consistency and transparency about what happens with such submissions and the recording process.

‘Outside of this process for identifying and recording conflicts of interest, all officer behaviours and conduct are covered within individual codes of professional practice and the Civil Service Code of Conduct.’

He added: ‘The department is committed to continuous improvement and will continue to work on its performance management arrangements, as part of the overall performance framework introduced through the One Government modernisation initiative, and develop better performance indicators across its enforcement services. GHE will also explore options to ensure that such data is available and transparent in a more publicly accessible format.’

In a further report published in April the CAG criticised the government’s methods for procuring insurance. It said that departments were not incentivised to improve their risk-management arrangements and reduce costs, while information management for claims was poor.

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An executive response issued by the Treasury Department says that the comments made by the CAG have been adopted into an improvement plan.

‘The Insurance Strategy and Improvement Plan 2020-23 was presented to executive leadership team in February 2020,’ it says.

‘It has already been updated to reflect the comments within the CAG report and will be monitored and refined over time.

‘The intention is for regular reports to be taken to executive leadership team and risk and audit committee identifying key changes on at least an annual basis.’

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
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