PFI Waste Continues, Public Accounts Committee Warns
The government has not done enough to tackle waste in private finance initiatives (PFI) contracts despite billions of pounds of public money being at risk, according to an influential House of Commons committee report.
The Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) report into the lessons from PFI warns that the schemes look like better value for the private sector than taxpayers.
“The taxpayer is being taken to the cleaners on these contracts”, Labour chair of the committee Margaret Hodge told Huff Post UK.
Britain currently has 700 PFI contracts, with many schemes started under the previous government.
“This government has been hugely critical of PFI, but they have committed over 60 new contracts and are negotiating over 100”, Hodge said.
Hodge said the government was not doing enough despite the billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money at stake.
In their report the Committee caution that the government’s case for using PFI has often been based on “invalid assumptions” and businesses could be registering offshore to avoid paying UK tax on their investments.
They add investors could be making excessive profits from selling shares in PFI projects, but there is no way of knowing because of a lack of transparency.
Hodge said government needed to stop thinking of the deals as the “only show in town”, warning that it was not always the right option for taxpayers.
Conservative MP Richard Harrington, a member of the PFI Rebate campaign, called on the state to negotiate some of the contracts again.
“It would seem to me that there are two specific problems. One is the actual cost to the public purse in the first place where the assets were basically acquired or constructed at over inflated prices.
“Secondly, there is the continual, ongoing purchase of the mundane, day-to-day items which vary from trivial things such as pot plants and light bulbs to more expensive pieces of equipment in hospitals and schools. The prices that have to be paid bear no relation to market prices.
“The state should use its immense power collectively to negotiate some of these outrageous terms.”
The Treasury have maintained that they are “committed” to providing value for money from PFI deals and have “already made a number of changes to improve the cost effectiveness and transparency of PFI contracts”.
“We are also committed to delivering £1.5billion efficiency savings across nearly 500 PFI projects, money which will be able to go back into frontline services. The Government will continue to look at what more can be done to get better value for money from existing and future PFI projects”, a spokesperson said.