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Firms which deliberately defraud lucrative public service contracts should be punished under new laws, the influent...
Firms which deliberately defraud lucrative public service contracts should be punished under new laws, the influential commons public administration select committee recommends, reported The Independent on Sunday (p4).

In a report to be published today it says tough new rules should be introduced to ensure top quality schools, hospitals, police services and transport - and that there are proper sanctions against those who deliberately fail the public. The committee urges the government to include a new public service code in all invitations to tender and contracts, including those under the controversial public finance initiatives and public private partnerships like the one currently being negotiated for refurbishment of London Underground.

The code would put legal obligations on public employees and private firms working in public services to be open, accountable and provide quality and reliability. 'Proper redress should be made where maladministration has taken place', says the report. It also calls for a public service academy to be set up to increase training for people working in public services.

Chairman of the committee, Dr Tony Wright, said: 'Our proposals would give ammunition in the courts if necessary to those who want to prevent private contractors from profiteering but also to those who wish to ensure that public sector employees pay attention to the users' needs. There must be no room in public service for private corner-cutting - or for over-mighty producer interests'.

The committee siggests the new code and obligations contained within it should form part of the proposed Civil Service Bill.

The report is critical of the government's failure to work out properly its policy on the use of private firms in public services. 'It is not clear whether the private sector is seen as a remedy for particular cases of public sector failure or as a routine ingredient of public service provision', it says.

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