Managing Financial Resources to Deliver Better Public Services: Forty-third Report of Session 2007-08; Report, Together with Formal Minutes, Oral and Written Evidence
Annually, central government spends some £558 billion, and this is forecast to increase to £678 billion by 2010-11. Strong and competent financial resources management is central to departments meeting their objectives cost effectively and delivering public services which represent value for money. Since the Committee's last report on this topic (HC 181, 25th report of session 2003-04, ISBN 9780215023636) the number of qualified finance directors with a seat on the departmental board has increased, enhancing the focus on financial performance at senior management level, but the lack of financial skills and awareness amongst non-finance staff remains a barrier to improving financial management more generally across government. Accruals-based accounting and budgeting systems are helping some departments identify under-utilised assets and dispose of those no longer required. Departments need to improve their forecasting capabilities to strengthen budgetary control and to avoid underspends not being identified early enough to reallocate resources to other priorities. Departments are continuing to spend less money than they forecast, particularly on capital projects, increasing the risk that resources are not being allocated across government in the most effective way. Few departmental boards are presented with accurate, timely and integrated financial and operational performance information to enable them to take sufficiently informed decisions on the use of resources and to review performance. Although the Treasury and Cabinet Office have a number of initiative to improve resource management, there is some way to go before financial management is fully embedded within departmental cultures.
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