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Quango or qango is an acronym (variously spelt out as quasi non-governmental organisation, quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation, and quasi-autonomous national government organisation) used notably in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and elsewhere to label colloquially an organisation to which government has devolved power. In the United Kingdom the official term is "non-departmental public body" or NDPB.

Contents

History

The term has its origin in a humorous shortening of quasi-autonomous NGO, an ostensibly non-governmental organisation performing governmental functions, often in receipt of funding or other support from government,[1] while mainstream NGOs mostly get their donations or funds from the public and other organizations that support their cause. Numerous quangos were created from the 1980s onwards. Examples in the United Kingdom include those engaged in the regulation of various commercial and service sectors, such as the Water Services Regulation Authority.

An essential feature of a quango in the original definition was that it should not be a formal part of the state structure. The term was then extended to apply to a range of organisations, such as executive agencies providing (from 1988) health, education and other services. Particularly in the UK, this occurred in a polemical atmosphere in which it was alleged that proliferation of such bodies was undesirable and should be reversed (see below).[2] This spawned the related acronym qualgo, a 'quasi-autonomous local government organisation'.[3]

The less contentious term non-departmental public body (NDPB) is often employed to identify numerous organisations with devolved governmental responsibilities. The UK government's definition in 1997 of a non-departmental public body or quango was:

"A body which has a role in the processes of national government, but is not a government department or part of one, and which accordingly operates to a greater or lesser extent at arm's length from Ministers."[4]

Use

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United Kingdom

The use in the UK of executive agencies charged with service delivery functions has arisen alongside so-called non-departmental public bodies. These agencies do not usually have a legal identity separate from that of their parent department; and, unless they have trading fund status, their accounts form part of the accounts of the parent department. The National Health Service also has bodies called special health authorities, technically neither NDPBs nor executive agencies. The Department of Health chooses to designate all three types as "arm's length bodies".

Network Rail, responsible for the UK's railway infrastructure, may be regarded as a quango, subject, however, to the question of whether the entity is, as its formal structure might suggest, a non-governmental private company, or a state-owned enterprise.

According to the Tax Payers Alliance, tax payers funded 1,162 Quangos' at a cost of nearly £64bn; equivalent to £2,550 per household.[5]

Ireland

Ireland in 2006 had more than 800 quangos, 482 at national and 350 at local level, with a total of 5,784 individual appointees and a combined annual budget of 13 billion.[6]

Criticism

Depending upon one's point of view, the separation of a quango from government might be either to allow its specified functions to be more commercially exercised, independently of politics and changeable government priorities, and unencumbered by civil service practices and bureaucracy; or else to allow an elected minister to exercise patronage, and extend their influence beyond their term of office, while evading responsibility for the expenditure of public money and the exercise of legal powers.

The Times has accused quangos of bureaucratic waste and excess.[7] In 2005 Dan Lewis, author of The Essential Guide to Quangos, for example, claimed that the UK had 529 quangos, many of which were useless and duplicated the work of others. In August 2008 a report by the pressure group the Taxpayers' Alliance, claimed that £15 billion was being wasted by the regional development agencies, quangos set up with the stated goal of encouraging economic development in their respective English regions.[8]

Popular culture

Britpop band Blur released a song called 'Mr. Robinson's Quango' on their 1995 album The Great Escape. The lyrics allude to Mr. Robinson being a 'dirty dealer' and a mason, as well as not doing very much, amongst other things.

Quangos were mentioned in several episodes of the popular British sitcom Yes Minister, which satirised political life. In particular, the chairmanship of a quango played a central role in the episode Jobs for the Boys from the first series of the sitcom.

See also

References

  1. ^ Wettenhall, R 1981 'The quango phenomenon', Current Affairs Bulletin 57(10):14-22.]
  2. ^ "You've Been Quangoed!" by Roland Watson
  3. ^ The Times "New body's waste plea." (April 18, 1986): NA. Newspapers Online. Gale. Gale Document Number:CJ117886677. Retrieved 5 Apr, 2008. "...London Waste Regulation Authority, the first 'qualgo' formed after abolition of the Greater London Council, ... The new body is a joint board of councilors from London boroughs. 'Qualgo' stands for 'quasi-autonomous local government organization', the municipal equivalent of a quango, in which members are appointed by other councilors. "
  4. ^ Public Bodies 1997, "Introduction"
  5. ^ Focus: THE UNSEEN GOVERNMENT OF THE UK
  6. ^ According to a survey carried out by the think-tank Tasc in 2006. Focus: What's wrong with quangos? — The Sunday Times newspaper article, 29 October 2006
  7. ^ Waste mounts as £100 billion web of quangos duplicates work
  8. ^ "Agencies branded 'waste of money'". bbc.co.uk. BBC News. 2008-08-08. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7548573.stm. Retrieved 2008-08-08. "Quangos set up to improve the fortunes of the English regions have been branded a costly and ineffectual waste of money by a pressure group." 

External links


Simple English

Quango is an acronym used especially in the United Kingdom and the Ireland. It means an organisation which the government has given devolved power (that is, hived off).

The acronym is spelt out in various ways:
quasi non-governmental organisation,
quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation,
quasi-autonomous national government organisation
In the United Kingdom the official term is non-departmental public body or NDPB.

Contents

History

The term 'quasi-autonomous non-governmental organization' was created in 1967 by the Carnegie Foundation's Alan Pifer. He wrote an essay on independence and accountability in public-funded bodies. This term was shortened to 'quango' by Anthony Barker, a Briton, during a follow-up conference.[1]

Many quangos were created from the 1980s onwards. The UK government's definition in 1997 of a non-departmental public body or quango was:

"A body which has a role in the processes of national government, but is not a government department or part of one, and which accordingly operates to a greater or lesser extent at arm's length from government Ministers".[2]

UK

According to the Tax Payers Alliance, in the year 2006-07, tax payers funded 1,162 Quangos at a cost of nearly £64bn; equivalent to £2,550 per household.[3] About a thousand still remain.[4]

Scotland

Since Scotland was given devolved self-government in 1999, their government has also set up a number of quangos.[5]

Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland in 2006 had more than 800 quangos, 482 at national and 350 at local level, with a total of 5,784 individual appointees and a combined annual budget of €13 billion.[6]

Issues

Depending upon one's point of view, the separation of a quango from government might allow its functions to be more commercially exercised. Or else it might allow an elected minister to evade responsibility for spending public money. Quangos have been criticised as undemocratic, expensive and letting government grow too big.

The Times has accused quangos of bureaucratic waste and excess.[7] In 2005 Dan Lewis, author of The Essential Guide to Quangos, claimed that many quangos were useless and duplicated the work of others. In August 2008 a report by the right-leaning pressure group the Taxpayers' Alliance, claimed that £15 billion was being wasted by the regional development agencies, quangos set up to encourage economic development in their regions.[8]

Other websites

References

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/1987/09/05/opinion/l-letter-on-quasi-public-organizations-whence-came-the-quango-and-why-969587.html?pagewanted=1 Letter: On Quasi-Public Organizations; whence came the Quango, and why - New York Times Opinion page by Alan Pifer
  2. Public Bodies 1997, "Introduction"
  3. Focus: THE UNSEEN GOVERNMENT OF THE UK
  4. One by one, the quangos are abolished. But at what cost?, N Morris, The Independent, 2010-07-27, accessed 2010-08-15.
  5. Scottish Government Scottish Government public bodies site
  6. According to a survey carried out by the think-tank Tasc in 2006. Focus: What's wrong with quangos? — The Sunday Times newspaper article, 29 October 2006
  7. Waste mounts as £100 billion web of quangos duplicates work
  8. "Agencies branded 'waste of money'". bbc.co.uk. BBC News. 2008-08-08. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7548573.stm. Retrieved 2008-08-08. "Quangos set up to improve the fortunes of the English regions have been branded a costly and ineffectual waste of money by a pressure group." 

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