Former Ministry of Justice interim permanent secretary Mike Driver has been given the green light to take up a new job as non-executive chair of the strategy advisory board at government services firm Maximus UK – which has links to three of his former departments.
Anti-corruption watchdog the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments this week published its approval letter for Driver to take up the role at the company, which is part of the $2.4bn annual turnover US business Maximus Inc.
Maximus UK has delivered three million health assessments for the Department for Work and Pensions and has contractual relationships with the MoJ to provide education, training and employment-support services to ex-offenders being monitored by the National Probation Service.
Maximus UK is also a listed supplier to the Department of Health and Social Care, but DHSC told Acoba it does not currently have live contracts with the business.
Driver held a number of high-profile roles before he left government in September last year.
He started his career at the Department of Health and Social Security in 1979. In 2012 he became chief financial officer of successor organisation DWP. He took on the role of chief financial officer at the MoJ in 2016 and served as head of the government finance function from 2017 to 2020.
After MoJ perm sec Richard Heaton was pushed out in August 2020, Driver became interim perm sec of the department until Antonia Romeo was appointed to the role on a permanent basis in January 2021. Driver served as senior responsible officer for the Borders Programme at DHSC for his remaining months in government.
Setting out its reasoning for approving Driver’s new role, Acoba said the former government finance function head had provided assurances that he had no dealings with Maximus UK since he left DWP in March 2016, and had no contact with sensitive information concerning the company's competitors.
Acoba said it believed the risk of Driver having been offered his new job at Maximus UK “as a reward for decisions made in post” was low and that neither DHSC nor the MoJ considered that Driver’s access to information posed any issue.
“While Mr Driver does not expect this role to include contact with the UK government, the committee noted Maximus UK has a contractual relationship with government,” it said.
“As such it could be perceived that his contacts within the government could unfairly assist Maximus UK. However, Maximus UK already has an established relationship with government, so the committee noted this risk was limited.”
Driver is subject to the usual business appointment rules for former ministers and top officials, which apply for two years after they leave government.
They include a commitment not to draw on privileged information obtained while he was in government for the benefit of his new employer and a requirement not to lobby government on behalf of Maximus UK.
The rules also require Driver not to advise Maximus UK – and its parent companies or subsidiaries – on contracts relating directly to the work of the UK government or any of its arm’s-length bodies.