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30 How. J. Crim. Just. 1 (1991)

handle is hein.journals/hjcj30 and id is 1 raw text is: 



The Howard Journal Vol 30 No 1. Feb 91
ISSN 0265-5527



Calling on the Experts: The Financial

Management Initiative (FMI), Private

Sector Management Consultants and

               the Probation Service



                  CHRISTOPHER HUMPHREY
        Lecturer in Accounting, Department of Accounting and Finance,
                         University of Manchester

Abstract: This paper examines the Home Office's attempts to apply the Financial Management
Initiative to the probation service in England and Wales, with particular emphasis being given
to the use of private sector management consultants in the development of a Financial
Management Information System (FMIS) for the Service. The details of the FMI's application
are set out and the processes whereby the aims of the initiative were attenuated and deflected are
identified. In consequence, the case adds support to the literature questioning the application of
such initiatives in the public sector by illustrating how even the 'experts' cannot provide simple
solutions for the complex problems facing public sector managers.

In attempting to reform the management  and  accountability of organiza-
tions remaining in the public sector, two particular strands in the policies
of  the post-1979  Thatcher   administrations have  gained   increasing
prominence.  First, the development of financial management information
systems and  secondly, the broad ranging use of private sector manage-
ment  consultants to assist both in the design and implementation of such
systems. Both  aspects of policy have  been  promoted   by the  central
government  as bringing much needed private sector management  skills to
what  it regards  as  rather anarchic  and  disordered  public  service
organisations - bureaucracies belonging to an  age of inefficiency. This
approach  to management   was perhaps  most clearly encapsulated in the
Financial Management   Initiative (FMI), launched in 1982 (see Govern-
ment  White  Paper  1982), which  Fry  (1984) classified as akin to the
Conservative's grand strategy towards central government  departments.
Its emphasis on objective setting, performance measurement,  delegated
resource management   responsibilities and critical scrutinies of the value
for money  of service provision has been seen  as having an  appealing
rationality. As Plowden (1985) noted:
it must also be right to identify the tasks to be done and the resources used in
carrying out each of the multifarious activities of government to ensure that
someone is clearly responsible at each level for managing these resources, and to
devise information systems that provide people at each level - including ministers
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