Risk management profession set to recruit first chief

Government finance function head Cat Little says learning and development programme for new profession should be in place by autumn next year
Credit: Pickpik

By Jim Dunton

29 Nov 2021

A leader for the civil service’s under-construction risk-management profession could be in place in around four months’ time, members of parliament’s Public Accounts Committee have been told.

Creating a “cross-department risk management profession with certification and training” was one of 28 recommendations made in Nigel Boardman’s review of  procurement during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, all of which were accepted by prime minister Boris Johnson.

Boardman, who was a non-executive director at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy until earlier this year, said creating the new profession should be a response to a “clear need for stronger, more comprehensive and responsive contingency planning” exposed by Covid-19.

In a progress report to PAC members dated 15 November, but published last week, government finance function head Cat Little – who is also HM Treasury’s director general for public spending – said she hoped a head for the risk management profession would be “recruited and in post” by 1 April next year.

Little said the new head would work with the government finance function’s Risk-Management Centre of Excellence to produce an accredited learning and development offer for risk-management professionals.

“Once this offer has been developed, a key task will be to devise and implement a sustained strategy for ensuring that a sufficient pipeline of these professionals is developed, and that continuing professional development is maintained,” she said.

“Developments will be progressed by the government finance function, working with Civil Service HR and others, with the aim of having a learning and  development programme and a recognised accreditation process in place by September 2022.”

Little told MPs that the centre of excellence would also continue working with stakeholders across government to support more-effective risk-management work.

“This includes continuing to work with senior leaders, non-executives, and other government functions and professions to ensure risk management is appropriately aligned and integrated with other elements of good governance and decision making,” she said.

Little added that the centre of excellence had already published three new guidance documents on the topic, including the Risk Management Skills and Capability Framework.

Recently-published Treasury minutes indicated the government believes will take 12-18 months to establish the new profession.

The Boardman Review of Government Procurement in the Covid-19 Pandemic acknowledged that risk management was currently part of the government finance function.

But Boardman argued that a separate risk-management profession would have wider scope, potentially taking in legal issues, policy work, reputation, procurement, use of resources, supply chain, and working with local agencies and the wider public sector.

“This could be based on the existing profession models within the government finance function in HMT or that deployed by the  government commercial function,” he said in the review.

He added: “Risk management should be treated as a coordinated profession, with dedicated horizon-scanning management teams set aside from the main policy functions.”

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