Finance officials must ‘get on the front foot’ to influence policy, says government’s new finance chief

Finance professionals across government should “get on the front foot” and make sure they’re involved in the policymaking process, the government’s new director-general of public spending, Julian Kelly, has said.

Brian Smith

By Winnie.Agbonlahor

03 Nov 2014

Speaking to CSW, Kelly (pictured), who also heads up the finance profession, said that “the finance function needs to take responsibility for itself and get itself involved and to show it’s got something to contribute.”

Instead of waiting for the processes to be put in place urging policy officials to consult finance officials, he said, finance professionals have to not only understand their subject, but also “work out how to build a relationship with person A or B, how to go and get stuck into a steering committee or a working group and communicate that information.”

He said: “You can create processes and say to a minister’s office: ‘You mustn’t clear this unless there's a paragraph from the finance people explaining the resource implications.’ But those things only get you so far. Ultimately, you need finance folk to show they have something to contribute to the broader debate and as soon as you do that what you then find is the policy and operation folk start coming [to the finance professionals] because they see the value that it brings.

“But if you just think it’s all the responsibility of the policy or operational folk to ask, you never get anywhere.”

Asked to name the strengths of the finance profession, Kelly said: “There is an inbuilt, strong sense of integrity. I think there is a real strength in the kind of care and concern that you use money wisely which naturally comes to some of the accountants amongst us. But what they’ve then got to work on is: ‘how are you going to make that relevant, communicate it to the others and stop sitting back waiting people to ask you?’. Get on the front foot, go and get yourself involved, stop waiting for the process to be sorted out.”

He also said that he hopes to launch a central training offer for all 16,000 finance professionals across government within six months.

Kelly was appointed to his post in May this year, following the Financial Management Review, led by Treasury second permanent secretary Sharon White and former head of the finance profession Richard Douglas.

For more, see our next issue published on 14 November

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