Overview: MoD on hunt for new finance chief

The MoD has been on the lookout for a qualified FD for more than three years
and the situation came to a head in 2007 after the job was advertised in the
national press, but no-one came forward to apply.

The department, which counts generals and admirals as its top brass, has been
under pressure as watchdogs and MPs criticise it for not having a qualified FD
at the helm.

What’s happened

The Treasury is now pulling out all the stops to lure someone suitable from
the private sector. The department’s permanent secretary Nick Macpherson told
the Public Accounts Committee in April that the role would be filled by the end
of the year, and now the department is upping the ante with a £250,000 carrot.

To put the pay packet, which consists of a £180,000 salary and a 40% bonus,
into perspective, it’s bigger than the prime minister’s and is almost double
what departing FD Trevor Woolley was paid.

What’s going to happen

Jon Thompson took over as head of the Government Finance Profession earlier
this year, and one of his most pressing tasks is to get this position filled as
watchdogs have been trying to force the MoD’s hand for several years.

Originally, the key central government division was told to find a qualified
FD by the end of 2006, but the issue has still not been put to bed. It’s now
make-or-break for the department, because it needs someone in place to deal with
the tricky conversion to IFRS accounting, which has already been something of a
minefield for the MoD.

IFRS conversion has already been delayed until next year because the nation’s
defence arm was one of two major departments that said it could not be ready in

The Treasury has now imposed IFRS ‘trigger points’ on central government
departments and the first of these is looming on the horizon. The MoD’s new
finance chief will face a baptism of fire because all of its financial
instrument data has to be submitted to the Treasury by the end of September.

Handling a budget of £35bn, managing complex relationships with overseas
suppliers, while holding heritage assets thought to be impossible to value,
public sector experts believe the eventual winner will have their work cut out.

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