By Sarah Neville, Public Policy Editor
Whitehall has chosen a civil servant as the first finance chief in charge of its £700bn coffers, dashing hopes that a business figure would be recruited to inject fresh thinking into the government.
The Financial Times understands that a senior official has emerged as the winner from a shortlist of four that included private sector candidates.
Applications were received from finance professionals at FTSE 100 companies and the big four professional services firms, but the selected civil servant was viewed as best fulfilling the job description.
The chosen candidate is a qualified accountant and has the imprimatur of both George Osborne, the chancellor, and Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, Whitehall insiders said.
The name of the chief financial officer is expected to be announced this week. The job combines the previously separate roles of director-general of public spending and head of the government finance profession.
Underlining a desire to break with convention, insiders said that never before had the most senior official in charge of public spending been a qualified accountant.
But there will be disappointment in parts of Whitehall, and among some finance professionals, at the decision to appoint an internal applicant rather than tapping into the talent available in UK boardrooms.
Some had felt that an outsider would best signal a new approach to financial planning. The job specification called for “an outstanding record of financial management in a large and complex environment” and “the credibility and experience to work with ministers and senior colleagues in Whitehall”.
At an Institute for Government event in February, Sharon White, second permanent secretary to whom the new CFO will report, acknowledged the need to change the Treasury’s approach to financial management, which should be “as focused on value for money as on the bottom line”.
But Ms White, who sat on the selection panel, was forced to repudiate accusations that an internal candidate had been lined up before applications closed and that the £142,500 salary was too low to attract high-calibre contenders.
In a report last year, the Institute for Chartered Accountants in England and Wales suggested the ideal candidate would have “significant global experience in finance, leadership and business”. (FT)