PM’s adviser: Whitehall lacks basic ‘financial capability’

Former BBC chairman and sometime Downing Street adviser Lord Birt has openly
criticised the lack of accounting expertise in many government departments.

Appearing before the House of Commons Public Administration Committee, the
ex-strategy adviser to Tony Blair was scathing about the accountancy standards
in Whitehall.

He said many government departments fell short of the sort of financial
management skills that were the norm in private firms. While he declined to
‘name and shame’ the departments concerned, he pulled no punches in comparing
their performance to commercial businesses.

Lord Birt told the all-party group of MPs that they lacked the basic
‘financial capability’ of the private sector.

He said: ‘The ability to delve down and understand in detail how money is
spent and how it relates to outcomes is absent in many areas. Do I think that
the average department has the equivalent financial capability of a major global
corporation? No it has not done and has not yet.’

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