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Government CFO will need to be ‘superhuman” says ICAEW chief

THE CREATION of a new group finance role to oversee government spending has been broadly welcomed by the profession but could require someone with “superhuman” abilities, the ICAEW chief executive has warned.

Following a financial management review, the Treasury is to create a new chief financial officer for central government role that combines the existing role of head of the government finance profession with that of the Treasury’s director general public spending.

The new role will report directly to Sharon White, second permanent secretary to the Treasury, will have a formal management relationship with all the heads of finance across departments and strengthen financial leadership across government.

Michael Izza, ICAEW chief executive, raised concerns that the role will be too large for one individual.

“Delighted as we are, we don’t think that the government’s plans to combine three high profile roles in one can work. Even someone with superhuman abilities is going to struggle to do all three together – and I’m not sure whether this shows the government is naive about the work, or is looking to deliberately overburden the role to ensure burnout,” Izza said.

“The new CFO role should be supported by two other senior people in the other two roles, creating a team of three.”

The ICAEW had previously called for changes to the way government manages public money following a damning report into the botched introduction of David Cameron’s flagship programme of welfare reforms.

“We need to turn HM Treasury into a proactive group finance function. We need a group CFO to lead the charge on financial discipline across government,” Izza said at the time of the report in September.

The recruitment process will start in next month and will be open to candidates from both the public and private sector.

A source from public accounting institute CIPFA said: “”It’s quite clear that whoever takes on this role must have substantial experience in the subtleties of accountability in central government, alongside excellent knowledge of financial leadership at a boardroom level.”

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