The government has faced stinging criticism for appointing a ‘part-time’ head
of government finance, despite a string of failures in Treasury accounting
The Treasury this week named the former Department for Children, Schools and
Families finance director Jon Thompson as the replacement for retiring Dame Mary
Keegan, but made clear he would carry out the role in addition to his current
responsibilities at the DCSF, where he heads up corporate services.
Liberal Democrat MP Lorely Burt said the decision was ‘a disgrace. The last
thing we need at this time of financial uncertainty is a head of the government
financial management profession who is a part-timer.’
The government has recently delayed the implementation of international
financial reporting standards by another year, a move that some have seen as a
way of deferring the shift of PFI projects on to the balance sheet.
The Ministry of Defence, which has had a string of accounting issues, and the
Department of Health both said they could not meet the deadline and the failure
to meet a separate self-imposed objective of getting qualified FDs into
government departments has also raised criticism.
Tory Treasury spokesman Mark Hoban, an accountant, said: ‘We need someone who
can punch his weight and who is not distracted by departmental pressures.’
Former Tory minister David Heathcoat Amory, also an accountant, said: ‘The
provision of good, independent accounting advice at the top level of government
is essential and it should be done full time. If you downgrade accountancy
expertise, you also reduce expertise in cost control and financial management,
which the government sorely needs.’
Paul Moxey, ACCA’s head of corporate governance said: ‘It looks like a lot of
work for one person,’ but added that he expected nevertheless that Thompson has,
‘got the management team behind him to deliver’.
A Treasury source said: ‘There is no doubt that Jon will be fully competent
in the role. He has the backing of both permanent secretaries to the Treasury
and the DCSF.’
The department declined to make an official comment.
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