Saturday, 9 July 2011

Captain Jack Cameron: Watchdogs, Ombudsmen and Commissions

Yesterday the Prime Minster said 'We turned a blind eye to phone hacking scandal.' I say the government turns a blind eye to many things.

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In addition, the Government already have a system of ministerial arse protection in place. They are called watchdogs, ombudsmen or commissions.

The whole reason we have such incompetent, weak and toothless watchdogs, ombudsmen and commissions in this country is to make it easier for ministers to turn a blind eye. And then should a scandal ensue, also avoid responsibility by laying the blame on others. Remember Baby P and Ed Balls?

Take the Press Complaints Commission & recent Phone Hacking scandal and the Care Quality Commission & recent Winterbourne scandal as examples. Both watchdogs were set up without the teeth and resources to do anything really effective. Hence their reliance on a sticking plaster approach to problems after they arise rather than pro-actively stopping them before they arise. Or at least nipping them in the bud before they get out of hand..

Local Government is probably the easiest way for me to explain this Ministerial Captain Jack approach. Put yourself in the position of the Minister for Local Government for a moment.

How do you stop the truth about the real level of wrongdoing, maladministration and rot in Local Government getting out. In addition, how do you position yourself so you can deny knowledge and responsibility should a scandal, similar to the Baby P, phone hacking and Winterbourne ones above, ever hit the press.

Step 1: Set up a watchdog, in this case let's call them the Commission for Local Administration in England and refer to them as Local Government Ombudsmen. Sounds a lot better than Local Government Minister Arse Covering Commission.

Step 2: Keep responsibility for selecting and recruiting them but make then accountable to no one else.

Step 3: Give them only enough power and resources to retrospectively bury the problems they encounter.

Step 4: Don't give them any mandatory powers. Then they won't be in a position to enforce any of their recommendations. We can't have a watchdog with teeth can we?

Step 5: Staff them with as many incompetent ex local authority staff as possible,  undermining any possible competence and impartiality to introduce bias in favour of a positive outcome for Local Government.

Step 6: Allow them to commission and manipulate their own customer satisfaction surveys thus deviously boosting the public's perception of their effectiveness.

Step 7: Should a select committee try and investigate the Role and Effectiveness of the Local Government Ombudsmen, take the necessary steps to derail the investigation.

Step 8: Should things really start to get out of hand ask another friendly commission, let's say the Law Commission, to review Local Government Ombudsmen and come up with some recommendations that will help me maintain the status quo. A review is always a good way of keeping the public happy and making them think we are going to change things for their benefit.
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Step 9: Should a scandal hit the press, do a Captain Jack, deny all knowledge and blame the watchdog scapegoat.

Step 10: Divert attention away from the fact that government ministers were responsible for setting up the useless watchdog in the first place by setting up another useless one to take over. It fools the public every time, even if the replacement ends up being worse than the one we replaced. As it did with the Health Care Commission - Care Quality Commission change.

Captain Jack Pickles. 

Read all articles about Watchdogs on this blog

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