McCaffry was speaking as the Institute for Government prepared to publish a report comparing financial leadership structures in the UK government with those in private sector companies and in the Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and American governments.
The report, produced in partnership with CIMA and published today, notes that it is “striking how weak the position of the leading finance professional in Whitehall is” when compared with systems in other countries.
The head of the finance profession – a role currently held by the health department’s chief finance officer, Richard Douglas – is “a part-time post, acting as a first among equals with no formal input into key decision-making processes,” says the report. “In all other countries that we studied this is a senior, full-time post within a central organisation that is playing a clear role in the performance management system.”
McCaffry noted that Sir Bob Kerslake does not have a central finance team advising him in his role as head of the civil service, and said that government needs a “senior finance person and a central finance team” placed “where they’ve got influence and power”.
The IfG report says Whitehall’s financial leaders play a weaker role in supporting departmental performance management systems than those in other countries.
The UK’s Treasury “does not take a leading responsibility for supporting performance management [of other departments],” it said. “In contrast, all the other organisations responsible for expenditure control play active roles in their respective countries’ performance management systems.”
Read the full report.