Government to appoint spending tsar

The government must appoint a director general to keep tabs on government spending, a review commissioned by the Treasury has recommended.

A financial management review was commissioned following the 2013 spending round that implemented further budget cuts across Whitehall departments. It was undertaken by Sharon White, second permanent secretary to the Treasury, and Richard Douglas, head of the Government Finance Profession, with Lord Sainsbury acting as an expert external adviser.

Its 50-page report states the coalition government should build on its programme of efficiency savings by creating a new role to oversee spending across all parts of government. The role would bear many of the hallmarks of the chief financial officer position commonly found in the private sector but “adapted” to government.

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It states: “The new director general must be financially qualified, possess excellent interpersonal skills, have experience of managing a large, complex finance function and have a strong understanding of the political context in which government operates, to be able to work within Whitehall effectively.”

Other suggestions put forward by the review include a framework to hand greater control to departments over certain areas, as well as a mandatory set of standards for “costing and financial management information” which will be regularly audited.

Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “Constraints on public expenditure will be necessary for years to come as work continues to tackle the deficit and bring the public finances under control.

“Within this context, it is more important than ever that taxpayers’ money is spent efficiently and effectively and that we maximise the value secured for every pound we spend. Strong financial management across central government has been, and will continue to be, critical to achieving this.

“I am confident that the recommendations contained within this review will deliver the necessary improvement in spending control and financial capability.”