Major Projects Authority boss John Manzoni to be Civil Service chief executive

Major projects authority boss John Manzoni is leaving the role after just eight months to take on the newly created post of chief executive officer of the Civil Service from next Monday (13 October).

The new role is seen as a response to recent criticism by the Public Accounts Committee that civil service lacked sufficient "formal mechanisms" to really drive the delivery of programme of organisational efficincy reform.

According to Number 10, in his new role Manzoni will attend Cabinet and will work closely with cabinet secretary and head of the Civil Service, Jeremy Heywood and the Treasury “to accelerate the government’s efficiency and reform agenda and civil service transformation".

"The MPA often has to rely on personal credibility and informal influence, rather than having formal mechanisms, to get its voice heard in its work with departments”. Public Accounts Committee.

Critically, Manzoni will have executive control over the key functions that make government as a whole work more efficiently and improve Whitehall’s ability to deliver.

These include getting a better deal for taxpayers from commercial decisions, the digital transformation of public services, ensuring the best people with the right skills are in the civil service, and managing major projects better.

Manzoni was chosen following an external competition. He will act as the most senior permanent secretary responsible for driving the efficiency programme, sitting on the Civil Service Board, attending Cabinet and supporting Heywood in performance managing the other Whitehall permanent secretaries. He will work with permanent secretaries across government to ensure that reforms are “implemented with pace and rigour”.

His new appointment follows a report by the Public Accounts Committee that said there needed to be more formal mechanisms at the heart of government to enable the MPA to drive change.

“The MPA often has to rely on personal credibility and informal influence, rather than having formal mechanisms, to get its voice heard in its work with departments,” the PAC said. “This lack of formal powers reduces the influence of the MPA with the Treasury and with departments, limiting its ability to drive improvements in project management.”

It added: “Where ministers or officials reject MPA recommendations, there should be a formal and transparent process in place to document this.”

Prime Minister, David Cameron said of Manzoni's new appointment that his "experience of business and the private sector puts him in the perfect position to accelerate the pace of reforms in the years ahead".

Manzoni is a former president and CEO of Canadian oil and gas company Talisman Energy and has more than 30 years’ experience in the private sector, including 24 years at BP.

His replacement at MPA has yet to be announced.

The announcement comes alongside a new progress report on civil service reform which said that more people from outside the civil service will be brought in to address skills gaps, with more training and support for existing civil servants. By April 2015, there will be a new presumption that senior civil service appointments below permanent secretary level should be open to external candidates.

Civil servants applying for permanent secretary posts will be expected – and after summer 2016 required – to have completed an appropriate business school leadership course before taking up an appointment, ensuring that leadership skills are prioritised for the top management posts in the civil service.

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