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Maude Review - Governance and Accountability of the Civil Service

Publication of the Maude Review into the Governance and Accountability of the Civil Service

On the day of one of the government's most significant cabinet reshuffles, the review by the Rt Hon Lord Maude's review into the governance and accountability of the civil service might have easily gone unnoticed. To bring attention to its key points, techUK have summarised the headlines and evaluated the broader impact of the report on the civil service.  

Background  

The review by the Rt Hon Lord Maude of Horsham was commissioned during Boris Johnson's premiership, in July 2022. The report was initially intended to review the governance of the civil service and the current structures for accountability. In particular, it identified how governance is practiced across central government and departments, the role of the Civil Service Board and relevant committees looking at the relationship between Ministers, Permanent secretaries, and Heads of non-Ministerial Departments. The review was also charged with making tangible recommendations which can be taken forward to improve decision-making and make the civil service more efficient and effective.  

The report identifies several changes which are necessary to enhance the reporting and accountability of the Civil Service. Lord Maude presents arguments throughout the document which aim to support central government to carry out its functions more effectively. The report sets out practical solutions which aim to disentangle the complex structures which currently underpin the delivery of cross-cutting government departments.  

Recommendations  

The review has produced five principle recommendations: 

  1. The establishment of a comprehensive and transparent plan for the delegation of the Prime Minister's statutory power to manage the Civil Service.  

  1. The creation of a Head of the Civil Service (HoCS) to deliver on an agreed set of reforms and improvements for the Civil Service. Lord Maude also recommends that the individual holds previous experience in leadership and delivering change management programmes.  

  1. Expansion of the role of the Civil Service Commission to hold the HoCS to account and oversee internal Civil Service appointments to ensure they are made on merit.  

  1. The reorganisation of central government departments to align with government's who operate a Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. The following offices should be in operation: 

  • Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet 
  • Office of Budget and Management (OBM)  
  • HM Treasury 
  1. Granting Ministers greater control over the appointment of civil servants while upholding the public interest in creating a politically impartial system.  

Analysis for the tech industry 

A reoccurring theme Maude makes throughout the report is the importance of strengthening digital and data skills in the civil service. Maude notes a severe lack of tech skills in the civil service, hindering the digital transformation of government departments and potentially placing the UK Government far behind its counterparts when it comes to creating a government-wide digital standard.  

Maude goes on to highlight the fragmentation of governance and accountability across the civil service, using the split between the Government Digital Service (GDS) and Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) as an example of this lack of cross-collaborative working. This fragmentation of departments can impede on the government's ability to make meaningful change to modernise the delivery of services. To overcome these challenges and boost efficiencies, it is imperative for the government to leverage innovations offered by the UK’s technology industry.  By refining the current accountability model, the government can more effectively introduce new innovations and implement best practices across central government and various departments.  

The report does not shy away from calling out the substantial responsibility placed on the centre of government to carry out a range of cross-cutting functions which include procurement, digital and financial management. Maude points out the unforeseen burdens on the Cabinet Office, emphasising the barriers which impact on the delivery of central government services.  Maude suggests that by restructuring the centre of government, the UK will have clearer lines of governance and accountability. This change will offer benefits not only to the system as a whole but also the tech industry who regularly engage with a complex network of government departments on procurement frameworks. Government departments will also be empowered to develop clearer strategic priorities, improving the suppliers understanding of where their innovations are most appropriately applied in the system. 

The responsibility for reviewing and implementing the report's recommendations now falls on the shoulders of the new Minister for the Cabinet Office, The Rt Hon John Glen MP. The government are yet to publish their formal response to the report, however with a general election looming it will be vital for Glen to acknowledge the vast number of recommendations in the report and look ahead to the future to create a central government which works for the future.  

Channel website: http://www.techuk.org/

Original article link: https://www.techuk.org/resource/maude-review-governance-and-accountability-of-the-civil-service.html

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