The public sector is not very good at controlling public assets. One of the ways the government could make the money it spends go further in the new year would be to get a better grip on all the assets it buys and uses. This applies to all departments and quangos. It applies to assets used by staff, and by the general public.
The NHS, for example, sends many people out of hospital each year with walking sticks, crutches, wheelchairs and other aids to mobility. Many get better. Some of the NHS assets get put in the garage, discarded as no longer needed. There is no universal system for the NHS to get its items back for another patient to use.
Many departments allow their staff laptops and mobile phones for use at home or away from the office. Has there been a recent audit of them? Are they returned when a staff member leaves or moves job?
Does the department or quango have an effective way of preventing theft by staff or public? I was reminded of the dangers talking to a hotelier recently of how they have to find ways to ensure a minority of paying guests do not take bath robes, bed linen, or even lamps and tvs out with them at the end of their stay. The NHS sometimes has patients who think items from the hospital would be a suitable compensation for being ill.
I would be interested in your experiences of how well the public sector controls the issue of assets in the first place, and their recovery when no longer needed for the intended purpose. If the government started 2013 with an amnesty to get property back, it might amount to a lot of money.
There is also the issue of oversupply. Many people receive medicines, medical supplies, special diet food and the like, in quantities well beyond their needs or willingness to consume. Once issued to a patient, the NHS will not take back unused items, even though they have survived with the packaging intact. Could there be better systems for controlling the issue, and doing more of the storage through the suppliers and just in time systems? In public sector offices and schools, what are the rules on private use and access to office consumables? When did the public sector last enjoy a proper de stocking exercise, to use up the large stock positions before they are damaged or out of date? What is the wastage rate?
I will take these matters up with the Cabinet Office for central government. Councillors could do the same for their local authorities.