In conversation with Mike Driver
Mike Driver is the Chief Financial Officer at the Ministry of Justice and Head of the Government Finance Function, he will be delivering a keynote session: Driving improvements across finance to support front line services at the Public Sector Solutions Expo on 26th June 2019.
As Head of the Government Finance Function, what do you see as the areas within the profession that demand the most reform?
Our vision is to “put finance at the heart of decision making. Driving the agenda, not just keeping score”. This is a consciously bold vision, but we need to be bold. We are a business-critical function and we expect our finance leaders to be the ‘go to trusted advisor’ in government. In order to be that lynchpin, we need to bring people and expertise together from a wide range of disciplines and professions in order to collaborate within and across departments. We must invest in building and strengthening our capability and setting out clear expectations about what needs to be done through consistent standards. We must deliver expert advice and specialist services by bringing a strategic and cross cutting perspective. And we need to cultivate and support a culture of innovation and collaboration, so we can drive high performance across government. We need to begin building that trust between ourselves and our colleagues in other departments, so they know what expertise is available to them and they turn to us when they need help.
In practical terms, how is the Finance Function enabling finance professionals across government to share expertise and skills more effectively?
An efficient and effective delivery model is key. Learning lessons from other organisations, public and private, we are developing a clearly defined operating model, with organisational structures which promote collaboration and knowledge sharing to increase efficiency and alignment across government. With this in place we can be sure of a modern finance function which is robust enough to tackle tomorrow’s problems. We are also developing Centres of Excellence, where cross-cutting teams provide leadership, best practices, advice and support for a specialist finance area. This ensures we maximise our impact and deliver better services. So far, we have launched five Centres of Excellence focusing on Tax, Technical Accounting, Debt, Grants and Corporate Finance.
To what extent is the Finance Function helping to coordinate multi-departmental responses to financial crisis – such as the collapse of large suppliers like Carillion?
This is a great question, and I think it relates to the entire functional agenda as opposed to just the Finance Function. If we take the example of the collapse of Carillion, the functional agenda enabled a cross-government approach to the crisis. The commercial function stepped forward and created a unified, multi-departmental civil service response which was supported by a strong finance function and HR function. Had we not had that approach, many more people would have lost their jobs and many more services would have been affected. The cross-functional approach allows us to draw on a wide-range of expertise and skills and share our findings more quickly, ensuring we don’t duplicate efforts and we have the right individuals in the right place at the right time. To put it simply, it really comes down to team work and breaking down silos. This isn’t a competition; by working together we get better results and deliver better results for the taxpayer.
What plans do you have to make the function more joined up and collaborative?
We continue to punch above our weight in enabling government to make better financial decisions. We have driven significant change across the function and we are doing more to improve the function – driving standards, process and technological change to get the basics right; improving performance risk and planning; sharing knowledge and experience across our teams; and investing in our people to prepare them to face future challenges – no matter how unexpected. We are developing and implementing clear, cross-government strategies, to ensure we are always able to deliver a great service. The Finance Leadership Group, my key leadership group across Government, is more inclusive than ever before: we now have representatives from all government departments, each affiliated function and cross functional representation. This is critical in enabling government to make better business decisions. We are better able to spot those cross-cutting areas of improvement, and work as a joined-up leadership group to address them.