National Audit Office lays into government’s management of its own buildings

The National Audit Office today published a report attacking the government’s record on sustainable construction.

The report criticised the government’s approach to sustainability on its estate. It said a fragmentation of responsibility among government bodies led to an incoherent approach to monitoring progress and compliance.

The report criticised the government for:

  • Setting sustainable standards for the construction and refurbishment of buildings that were not being met
  • Failing to carry out environmental assessments and failing to achieve the required standards. Over 2005 and 2006, only 9% of projects achieved the required standard.
  • Failing to meet its own carbon reduction target.
It criticised departmental staff for their lack of knowledge and expertise on sustainable procurement.

The report said there was a perception that there was a conflict between sustainability and value because teams were failing to assess long-term costs and benefits.

Sir John Bourne, head of the National Audit Office, said he told government in 2005 that it had to take into account whole-life costs. He said: “Despite this, today’s report highlights a continuing failure by departments to consider the long-term value of sustainability. This is disappointing given the importance of sustainability in promoting a deeper understanding of value for money.”

The report added that central government departments had to take far more action to address the widespread failure to achieve the targets set. It said that Defra, the OGC and possibly the DTI would have to provide more leadership and direction.

It recommended that these departments would have to:

  • Define the level of performance required on the government estate and revise and promote the sustainability requirements in the Common Minimum Standards
  • Establish a source of expertise available to all departments to provide advice on sustainable construction for smaller construction and refurbishment projects
  • Establish a clear understanding on the division of policy responsibilities for sustainable construction in the public sector to ensure accountability Read the full report at