Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-115)|
18 OCTOBER 2006
Q100 Mr Todd: When you said "intentions"
I thought you meant something else
Ms Keegan: No, the recruitment
campaign. So we are at 90% today
Q101 Mr Todd: I thought someone had
given you a promise.
Ms Keegan: No, we are at 90% today
and we have recruitment campaigns running for the other 9%, and
then there is a rump of less than 1% of current spend, which is
in six departments, which are tiny.
Q102 Mr Todd: I think we should applaud
the progress which has been made. I think it is excellent.
Ms Keegan: If I say we are not
resting on our laurels it is because one finance director does
not create financial management in the department and we need
breadth and depth.
Q103 Mr Todd: That is why I would
have liked to have heard more about the systems which are going
to lie behind their work.
Ms Keegan: May I just add to that
to say systems are improving throughout government all the time
and a measure of that is in the departmental resources accounts,
which are laid before Parliament. Two years ago, 10 departments
laid before the recess; one year ago 25 departments laid before
the recess; this year I was delighted to announce that 42 out
of 49 sets of resource accounts were audited and laid before Parliament
before the summer recess. It is not 100% and one always aims for
100%, but I think that measure of progress in the last three years
is remarkable, and that is a demonstration of improving systems
in departments and improving financial strength.
Q104 Mr Todd: Yes, but my point still
Ms Keegan: We are never going
to be satisfied with where we have got to, we always want to
Q105 Mr Todd: No, but more about
the access to the broader financial information available for
management decision making. Turning to the report of the 2007
CSR, the report says that the Government will seek input from
public service professionals, stakeholders and critically the
users of public services in the coming year. Is there a role for
select committees in helping establish those?
Mr Macpherson: I think select
committees can make a very positive contribution and we would
certainly welcome your views. In terms of precise arrangements,
Mridul will tell you where we are.
Ms Brivati: There are a number
of work streams underway which I think will provide opportunities
for the Committee and its Members to influence the Comprehensive
Spending Review. One of these is a new proposal for how we will
develop the PSA framework, which the Economic Secretary to the
Treasury announced in his speech yesterday. The story of the PSA
framework has been one of evolution over the course of consecutive
Spending Reviews and the upshot of what the Economic Secretary
was saying yesterday is that we want to take this further in the
next Spending Review. We want to move towards a more focused set
of corporate PSAs which represent genuine cross-government priorities.
On the question of involvement, we want to establish what the
PSAs and the specific targets attached to them are through more
involvement with frontline users and other stakeholders prior
to their being set, and then in terms of assessing outcomes of
those PSAs. We also want to give more weight to user satisfaction.
That is one important workstream of the Comprehensive Spending
Review where we expect to see more openness and more consultation
with external stakeholders.
Q106 Mr Todd: Could you share that
methodology with us?
Ms Brivati: I would be very pleased
to send you a copy of the Economic Secretary's speech which sets
out in more detail exactly what the proposals are.
Q107 Mr Todd: I think we can get
that bit, but I would be surprised if he went into detail as to
precisely how the consultation with the public would actually
Ms Brivati: We will, over the
course of the PBR, the Budget and successive events, be revealing
in more detail the process of these proposals.
Q108 Mr Todd: Would you have any
difficulty about giving a draft copy of the Treasury's own PSA
targets to the Committee for our comment?
Mr Macpherson: As and when we
have one, and if the decision is taken to go out and to consult
on them then it would be a pleasure.
Q109 Chairman: You have said you
are seeking input from stakeholders. Presumably we are a stakeholder
in your work?
Mr Macpherson: A key one, which
Q110 Chairman: So you will send us
Mr Macpherson: If you wanted to
get ahead of the game, you could look at our current lot and tell
us which ones you think could be improved or axed, or replaced.
We were discussing the environment earlier. But as I say, if the
Government does decide to issue some draft PSAs we will definitely
want to be part of that.
Q111 Chairman: Just a housekeeping
point. We are always concerned here on the Committee that senior
people tend to disappear. We asked questions once about Nicholas
Stern. We have now heard that David Varney has resigned. Can you
Mr Macpherson: Yes, David was
always planning to stay for two to three years. He did two years,
in my view very successfully. He had been asked to do a review
of transformation of government and I think he felt that as the
Revenue and Customs had got to a position where they had identified
a five year plan for the coming period reflecting the last Budget's
CSR settlement for them, he felt it was time to move on. I would
have much preferred it if he had stayed there for a very long
time, but he wants to leave the civil service at the end of this
year. He is going to complete his review, which I think will be
published in the PBR, and that is what he wants to do.
Q112 Chairman: So there is no policy
Mr Macpherson: Absolutely none.
If you invited him here, he would say exactly the same thing.
Q113 Chairman: Have you announced
a successor yet?
Mr Macpherson: No. At present
Paul Gray is the acting chairman.
Q114 Chairman: Are you going to appoint
Mr Macpherson: Yes, we are, but
in due course.
Q115 Chairman: Does that mean soon?
Mr Macpherson: The HMRC board
structure has the benefit of having a deputy chairman. Paul is
the deputy chairman. He is now acting chairman. We need to resolve
the precise structure of the board in the coming period and I
would hope we can resolve this soon, yes.
Chairman: All right. Thank you very much
for your attendance today.