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A case of do as we say, not as we do

Robin Gordon-Walker is quoted as saying that the FSA’s expenditure (of other peoples’ money) of more than £13m on external consultants was “based on an assessment of the most efficient use of the regulator’s resources”. An assessment by whom, we may well ask.

Unless such an assessment was undertaken by a totally impartial and independent outside agency with nothing to gain (like another lucrative consultancy contract) – the Treasury Select Committee springs to mind as a good choice – then it is of no value whatsoever.

If Mr Gordon-Walker is trying to claim that an assessment carried out by the FSA constitutes adequate justification for such a colossal allocation of financial resources, then surely this is a self-serving smoke-screening. It is rather like the decision to increase MP’s pensions having been carried on the strength of a vote from MPs.

And what were the outcomes of all these consultations and research programmes? More cost-effective regulation? If the resultant savings have not exceeded the £13m outlay, then a proportion of that £13m must surely have been money wasted, must it not? Have the financial benefits of these consultations been quantified or analysed in any way, either before or after they have taken place? I would willingly bet money that they have not – they never are. The FSA’s currently favoured term “quantifying outcomes” springs to mind, along with Do as we say, not as we do.

Assuming this to be the case, then how can anyone argue that their commissioning has been the most efficient use of the regulator’s resources? To many people, I imagine, Mr Gordon-Walker’s response looks like nothing more than a standard recitation of the FSA’s stock party line.

On a different note, a woman phoned in the other day and asked if we provide free financial advice. I said no but that if she’d be prepared to come over and clean my house free of charge, we might be able to reach an accommodation. For some reason, she didn’t seem to consider that to be a reasonable proposition. Why ever not, I wonder?

Julian Stevens

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