Watchdog questions the number of government-funded construction efficiency initiatives.
A National Audit Office investigation into government construction policy is looking at whether initiatives to boost industry efficiency are wasting taxpayers’ money.

A government insider said NAO officials were concerned at the number of groups with similar functions set up in the wake of the Latham and Egan reports.

It is understood that the DETR has so far spent £2m on the Construction Best Practice Programme, more than £1.5m on the Movement of Innovation and up to £500 000 on the Construction Industry Board.

These groups have spawned a number of other initiatives, which receive additional funding, such as CIB’s Construction Research and Innovation Strategy Panel.

A source close to the investigation said: “There seems to be a great deal of concern within the NAO as to what these schemes do. There is a real concern that there is too much duplication by groups like the Movement for Innovation and the Construction Best Practice Programme. Officials believe that there is a need for rationalisation.”

A spokesperson for the NAO confirmed that the government initiatives were part of its investigation: “These are issues we are currently looking at, but we cannot give details of what our findings will be.”

The spokesperson added that a report of the NAO’s findings would be put before parliament in the autumn.

The NAO investigation was originally set up to assess what progress the Treasury and the DETR had made in promoting change and improving efficiency within construction procurement, both in government and the industry. However, the source said the issues posed by the plethora of new groups set up with government funding were now taking precedence.

The NAO thinks there are too many groups doing the same job, and wants to cut them back

Industry Source

The CIB was set up in 1995 to implement the Latham report. The Movement for Innovation was established three years later to push through the recommendations of the Egan report. The Construction Best Practice Programme is a joint DETR-CIB initiative set up in 1998. All three groups are jointly funded by government and industry.

The source said: “The NAO wants to see if the financial investment the government has put into these schemes is paying off. And, at the moment, they believe there are too many groups doing the same job and they want to cut them back.

“It’s no secret that the DETR wants the industry to pay more money for the Movement for Innovation, and that is part of the agenda. There is a need to see what’s going on with these groups and they are asking if it’s all worth it.”

Movement for Innovation chief executive Alan Crane confirmed that he had had a number of meetings with NAO officials, but denied that the watchdog was concerned about the number of government-funded initiatives.

Crane said: “From my perspective, that is not what the NAO is doing. We requested the first meeting with the NAO because we felt that if the Movement for Innovation and the Construction Best Practice Programme were to be put forward to the industry, it was important that the NAO supported the proposals. “They’re looking at a programme

of what we have prepared and they are talking to the CBPP, but haven’t mentioned overlapping to us.” However, the source said: “The NAO wants to see if the rhetoric of these groups is being turned into action. Part of the worry is that the Movement for Innovation is spawning other groups, such as Respect For People, which is also getting government funding.”

Three of a kind? What the groups do for a living

Construction Best Practice Programme A Construction Industry Board/DETR initiative set up in November 1998 with three years’ funding, a £6m budget and 18 staff. The programme provides assistance to industry bodies to help them become more efficient. A programme management unit has been set up to co-ordinate its initiatives, led by Tarmac director Zara Lamont. Areas of interest: benchmarking, lean thinking and partnering. Movement for Innovation Set up in 1998 to implement the findings of Sir John Egan’s Rethinking Construction. It employs five full-time staff and three part-time staff at its Watford offices. On its board are 32 industry figures that work part-time and meet once a month. It is headed by Christiani and Nielsen boss Alan Crane. Construction Industry Board Established in 1995 to push the recommendations of the Latham report. It is an umbrella body linking the Construction Confederation, the Construction Industry Employers Council, the Construction Clients Forum and the Construction Industry Council. It steers the Construction Best Practice Programme with the DETR. It has five full-time members of staff; chairman is Chris Vickers.