Public Sector versus Private Sector

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Mike MacKinnon
South Lanarkshire

There’s been a lot of talk about the private sector taking over some of the duties of the ailing public sector in order to save money.  The question is, does giving responsibility for public sector functions to the private sector actually save money?

Mike MacKinnon
South Lanarkshire

There’s been a lot of talk about the private sector taking over some of the duties of the ailing public sector in order to save money.  The question is, does giving responsibility for public sector functions to the private sector actually save money?

If we look at the de-nationalisation of the railways, we can see that a form of chaos exists among the myriad railway companies, where before privatisation, one could at least get a ticket from A to B without having to jump through hoops.

Privatisation was touted as a way of ending subsidies and yet we pay more subsidies to the private sector than we ever did to the nationalised railway!

We also have the computer shenanigans where companies like EDS and Cap Gemini sold a pup to various government departments that ended up with the taxpayer paying more than was ever paid to the in house service. Has nobody ever heard of fixed price contracts?

Let me elucidate.

Both parties sit down at the table and work out what needs to be done. This requires both parties to know what they’re talking about! After the service provider agrees that they can provide the service, a price is then agreed and penalty clauses inserted. Should the service provider fail to come up with the goods, he can then be fired and possibly sued.

Common sense, I hear you say. But how many government contracts, both in Westminster and Edinburgh, are fixed price contracts? I would suggest very few. Can you imagine the Edinburgh Tram fiasco if a fixed price contract with penalty clauses had been agreed by Labour and the Lib Dems? I’ll lay you a pound to a penny that the whole system would now have been running for over a year! How about the Parly building itself? If this had been fixed price, it would not have rocketed to the price paid!

Now, maybe I’m being naive here, but if I buy something, I expect to pay the price stated and if the goods are not up to standard, I can seek redress in court. Why not in business?

I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that government departments, again, in Edinburgh and London, are staffed by senior management that don’t have a clue about the real world or the needs of their departments. Either that, or they’re totally corrupt and I prefer not to believe that.

Why is there a distinct absence of fixed price major contracts?
Why do we have to put up with shoddy work by the private sector with, seemingly, no redress?

It’s about time that those in high places faced the music. If you want the job, then you have to take the responsibility. I honestly believe that, for example, those that negotiated the Edinburgh Trams project should be made to explain where they went wrong. A public enquiry would get at the truth and if any wrongdoing was found, then criminal charges should follow. If it was simply inefficiency, then those in high places should be fired immediately.

The Trams are only one example of the rotten managerial culture that seems to have spread through industry, both private and public. Nobody ever seems to be responsible for anything!

The day of the fixed price contract has come!
The day of corporate responsibility has come!
It’s time the Scottish Government enforced both!