Whitehall’s focus on policymaking “crowds out organisational business strategy and running operations,” he said. “I think we could make a better job of our operations if we had some more delivery skills”.
“We’re very good at making policy happen quickly,” he argued, but “it isn’t ingrained in the DNA that we should make ourselves efficient organisations.” Whiteman called for operational delivery and “expert skills such as procurement or IT… to be promoted in order to make the business more effective. Everybody I meet in Whitehall feels that we could be better, and that actually we’re not quite getting organisational improvement or transformation right”.
Whiteman said that central government’s efficiency trails that of other areas of the public sector, and noted that in the civil service “we still do quite a lot of things in-house.” The Home Office has, he said, “outsourced new things that have come along” rather than existing areas of work: “We’ve outsourced greenfield rather than brownfield activity”.
Tackling these weaknesses in capabilities and culture will, he argued, require civil servants to pursue the reform agenda consistently “for three or four years, without failing”.
The interview also covered the Brodie Clark affair – a scandal which led to the departure of the head of the UK Border Force – and the findings of the subsequent reports by the UKBA’s independent inspector and the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Also see our full interview with Whiteman