With wit and verve from here.
So why do we hear so much about government failures and not about private sector ones? I have one word for you: accountability.
Public organisations are taxpayer funded and are accountable to taxpayers via government agencies and freedom of information laws. They are scrutinsed by the Audit Office, the Commons Public Accounts Committee, investigative journalists, think tanks, interest groups, unions, regulatory agencies, UN rapporteurs, Great Uncle Horace with too much time on his hands, you name it.
Publicly listed companies are allegedly accountable to their boards who represent the interests of shareholders. In practice, Boards and senior management do nothing to damage the reputation of their firm. If a supplier screws up, they hush up, in order to protect themselves from criticism for hiring screw-ups in the first place. Corporate conferences and publications and spout endless case studies declaring how Acme Corporation innovated, reengineered and transformed their business models to the delight of customers, their customers’ customers, and their customers’ customers’ customers, yea unto the seventh generation. Their mistakes they try to keep very, very quiet, hidden behind confidentiality clauses and the basic understanding that if I diss you, you’ll diss me. And there is little in the way of accountability regimes to force them to do otherwise, shareholder activism notwithstanding.
We might wonder whether government agencies have the necessary skills to manage such projects; but we should ask the same question of private sector firms. The fact that we generally don’t is related to the fact that its government which faces the bright lights of publicity, the private sector which can hide behind ‘commercial sensitivity’.
How about this as an alternative? If you provide a public service, you face public scrutiny. Then we might become a little less ready to believe the bollocks line that the private sector is the bastion of competence, the public sector the bastion of Homer Simpson on a bad day.