Prime minister Theresa May has named Gareth Davies, a partner at the international accountancy firm Mazars and former head of audit practice at the Audit Commission, as the government’s preferred candidate to head the National Audit Office.
The appointment, which is made with the chair of the Public Accounts Committee Meg Hillier, needs to be approved by parliament. Davies will then replace Amyas More as auditor general and chief executive of the NAO from 1 June when Morse’s ten-year term comes to an end.
Announcing the appointment, NAO chairman Lord Michael Bichard said Davies would bring “the ideal blend of experience to lead the NAO”.
He added: “He brings strategic vision and a strong track record of engaging and influencing authoritatively at the highest levels, which will be important in navigating in such a complex political environment. In the context of leaving the European Union, the NAO’s role has never been more important than it is today and Gareth’s capacity to make difficult, independent and courageous audit judgements under pressure, will be an invaluable asset.
"He shares the board’s enthusiasm for the NAO and has both the ambition and ability to continue the NAO’s success in making a real difference to the UK’s public finances and services."
Davis joined Mazars as UK head of public services in 2012 from the Audit Commission, where he was managing director, audit practice. After then local government secretary Eric Pickles announced the closure of the commission in 2010, Davies led an effort by its audit staff to create a spin-out mutual, but it won insufficient work to operate as a standalone company and Mazars ended up owning the planned mutual instead.
Prior to its abolition, Davies spent 25 years at the Audit Commission, which the NAO said had given him wide experience of financial audit, value for money studies and performance assessments. His senior posts at the commission included managing director for local government and housing and regional director for the North.
He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. He is also a trustee and honorary treasurer at the charity Save the Children UK and a trustee at the Institute of Development Studies.
MPs will vote on a motion to approve Davies’s appointment as soon as parliamentary time allows. Once approved, the formal appointment will be made by the Queen.
Morse, who will lead the NAO until 31 May, has made an “outstanding contribution in driving public sector improvement and supporting Parliament in responding to the challenges facing government”, Bichard said.
“He will leave the NAO in a very strong and healthy position to cope with the likely challenges it will face in the future.”