Most Whitehall departments now have properly trained financial directors in place, in line with the government’s plans to professionalise the civil service and drive massive cost savings.
About 60% of departments have appointed professional finance directors, a requirement of the Treasury’s 2004 Spending Review White Paper, which raised concerns about the lack of properly qualified financial personnel in government departments.
When the White Paper was published, only one in five departments had someone with a relevant professional qualification in charge of finances. It said that all departments should have a professional finance director in place by December 2006.
A spokesman for the Treasury said: “The deadline for December 2006 is on target and HM Treasury is working hard with departments to achieve this.”
Professional finance directors are playing a key role in implementing the Gershon efficiency review, which called for 20bn savings across Whitehall.
Neil Bentley, director of public services policy at the CBI, said the government was making good progress in the area of finance, but that more needed to be done to ensure the future success of the efficiency drive.
In particular, the CBI wants to see the establishment of commercial directorates to oversee public procurement deals and to make sure the people involved have the correct abilities. “Public procurement often fails because the people in charge don’t have the skills to do it,” he said.
“Without people who have the right commercial nous we are not going to be able to achieve what Gershon set out to do, and it is not clear what the government is doing to up-skill people,” Bentley warned.