(Credit: FacemePls, CC by 2.0)
Democratic Audit pioneered research into quangos and their accountability in the UK. The landmark study was the Audit’s EGO TRIP: Extra-governmental organisations in the UK and their accountability in 1994 (Democratic Audit Paper No. 2).
The Audit developed a check-list for accountability and openness on quangos & other public bodies for the 1994 EGO TRIP report. The checklist criteria have been partially adopted by the Cabinet Office for public assessment of the accountability of public bodies and have twice been used by the Public Administration Select Committee for reports on quangos.
The Audit’s report on advisory quangos, Behind Closed Doors: Advisory Quangos in the Corridors of Power, Stuart Weir and Wendy Hall, 1995 (Democratic Audit Paper No. 4; published with Channel 4 Television) was the basis of a Despatches documentary for Channel 4 TV.
In 1999, the Audit published the first definitive account of New Labour’s task forces, Ruling By Task Force: Politico’s Guide to Labour’s New Elite, by Tony Barker et al.
From 2001-2003, the Audit’s then director, Stuart Weir, acted as special adviser to the Public Administration Select Committee during two inquiries which resulted in two significant reports on the ‘Quango state.
The first of these reports,Mapping the Quango State(vols I and II) (HC 367, March 2001), does just that – maps all known quangos and assesses their accountability on a scale devised by Democratic Audit;
The second report,Government by Appointment: Opening up the Patronage State (HC 165, July 2003) assesses the integrity and diversity of appointments to quangos & maps out prime ministerial patronage.
Stuart Wilks-Heeg, ‘Quangos – still undemocratic after all’, OurKingdom, 13 November 2009.
Stuart Weir, ‘Beware Coalition’s attack on quangos’, OurKingdom, 19 August 2010.
Stuart Weir, ‘Standing up for the role of quangos’, OurKingdom, 30 September 2010.