Whitehall attacked by former chief auditor

Sir John Bourn, the former head of the National Audit Office, has levelled
scathing criticism of Whitehall claiming it is in urgent need of reform if
efficiency and effectiveness is to be improved in policy implementation.

Writing in today’s Financial Times Sir John says that civil servants should
be appointed based on their ability to head up and deliver projects and
programmes rather than on their ability to help ministers get through the week.

He goes on to say that programme are not well designed and resemble ‘the
structures children build with toy bricks’. He specifically highlights the
changes to capital gains tax as one such structure and non domicile taxation as
examples of how things can go badly wrong.

‘Projects and programmes should be designed to produce good results. Too many
schemes today are like the structures children build with toy bricks –
unbalanced, constantly wobbling, complicated to shore up and only too likely to
come tumbling down – as in the arrangements for child support, and in the recent
ill thought-out schemes for capital gains tax and the taxation of non-domiciled
residents, which had to be amended even before they were put into operation,’ he

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