‘Fewer than 100’ senior civil servants have second jobs

Cab sec says top officials face new transparency regime despite Greensill-driven checks revealing no conflicts of interest
Cabinet secretary Simon Case

By Jim Dunton

27 Apr 2021

A probe into second jobs held by senior civil servants that was fuelled by revelations about Greensill Capital has revealed fewer than 100 top officials are known to have paid outside work, according to cabinet secretary Simon Case.

But Case has detailed plans for a tougher new reporting regime that will require senior civil servants to make annual declarations on their outside interests that will be submitted to the Cabinet Office for “greater consistency” across Whitehall.

Case ordered departmental permanent secretaries to report back to him with second-job information on their staff earlier this month after it emerged that former chief commercial officer Bill Crothers worked for financial firm Greensill in 2015, while he was still a civil servant.

At the time of the call, Case said there was “acute concern” about lobbying undertaken on behalf of Greensill – which collapsed in March – and told perm secs to immediately flag any officials with outside interests that may be in conflict with the civil service code.

At a hearing of parliament’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs yesterday, Case referred to a letter he sent to MPs on Friday detailing the response from perm secs.

“As I set out in the letter…   no instances of senior civil servants holding outside interests that conflict with their, or are considered to conflict with their, roles and obligations under the code,” he said.

“There are fewer than 100 civil servants who hold paid employment outside the public sector alongside their civil service roles, but these are roles like tutoring and yoga instructors and sport instructors and those have all been considered by permanent secretaries [who] concluded there’s no conflict with obligations under the code.”

Case’s letter – which was only made public by PACAC yesterday – offers a slightly more cautious tone, however. It says the cab sec has “not been made aware of any instances of senior civil servants holding outside interests which are considered to conflict with their roles”.

On second jobs, Case wrote: “I have so far been made aware of fewer than one hundred senior civil servants who hold paid employment alongside their civil service role.”

In his letter, Case said he had been “heartened” to see that where senior civil servants did have outside interests they often involved making contributions to wider public life, such as serving as a magistrate, reservist, school governor or charity trustee.

Official headcount figures show that as of the end of March last year there were 6,450 senior civil servants working across departments.

New reporting regime for outside interests

But Case said that while he wanted to ensure senior civil servants were able to continue contributing to society away from their day jobs, this month’s second jobs audit had “highlighted areas” for improvement.

Case said he planned to require all senior civil servants to declare “any relevant interests” to their perm sec on “at least an annual basis”, with a requirement to make a “nil return” declaration where there was nothing to declare. He told MPs that the annual reporting would be in addition to the real-time requirement to declare any outside interests on appointment, or if circumstances of an existinng appointment changed.

Case said returns would be scrutinised by departments’ audit and risk committees and that departments would also be required to complete an annual return to the Cabinet Office, providing assurance that all outside interests were being managed appropriately.

Additionally, departments will be required to publish a register of relevant interests for all senior civil servants and members of the departmental board. Case said that the register could be published as part of each department’s annual report or alongside the document.

“I am clear of the need to introduce greater consistency across the civil service in how the interests of senior civil servants are managed,” Case said.

He added that he was “considering” whether new structures were required within the civil service to “monitor the overall position” on outside appointments and advise perm secs on “finely balanced cases”.

The cab sec said he would wait for the outcome of Nigel Boardman’s review of Greensill Capital and supply chain finance, which was commissioned by prime minister Boris Johnson earlier this month. It is due to report by the end of June.

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