Steering public expenditure with defective maps

Heald, D. (1995) Steering public expenditure with defective maps. Public Administration, 73(2), pp. 213-240. (doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9299.1995.tb00825.x)

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Governments control public expenditure on definitions different from those of General Government Expenditure, the national accounts aggregate. After a prolonged period of relatively stable definitions for its public expenditure control aggregate, the UK government has recently revised this twice, substituting the New Planning Total for the Old Planning Total in 1990 and then moving in 1993 to the New Control Total. This article evaluates the justifications offered for these revisions and evaluates alternative explanations. The search for presentational gains and recourse to definitional change as an escape from problems feature prominently among the latter. Moreover, the fundamental ongoing changes in the form of public service delivery have major implications for the articulation of delivery agencies with public expenditure planning. There has been a marked loss of information and of transparency, notably with regard to forward information about function and economic category. Data continuity has been broken, and year-on-year changes to cash plans cannot be properly analysed. Transferring expenditure away from general government to where it is‘out of reach’in the expectation of efficiency gains further complicates monitoring. The channels of public accountability are blocked, in part by information overload and in part by information suppression. The existing arrangements, whether by accident or design, confer enormous discretion upon UK government through control of information flows.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Heald, Professor David
Authors: Heald, D.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Accounting and Finance
Journal Name:Public Administration
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
ISSN (Online):1467-9299
Published Online:03 April 2007

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