More business-focused finance role ‘will boost value for money’

26 Feb 15

Developing the role of finance professionals in government so they can act as partners across Whitehall will be critical to securing value for money in the next spending review, a report has concluded.

Examining the role of the finance function, Deloitte’s Finance Business Partnering: A Public Sector view concluded the finance department could support better decision-making by providing better performance and spending information.

However, ahead of May’s general election and the Spending Review planned for later this year, the report warned finance was not currently delivering the ‘business partnering’ insight required.

Speaking to Public Finance, Richard Horton, who leads Deloitte’s Finance Insight team, said business partnering was about ‘the role the finance can take to support the strategic and tactical priorities of the wider organisation’.

This is done by providing insight and guidance based on the analysis of a range of data, including economic and operational data as well as financial information.

Within the public sector, the finance function needed to put in place arrangements to ensure that it was providing this information for top-level decision-making, including the development of strategy, he said.

Gillian Russell, a partner at Deloitte who leads the firm’s work with chief finance officers and other senior public sector leaders, highlighted that greater partnering was also one of the recommendations of the Treasury's financial management review.

‘It would be the view of many finance directors across government that finance business partnering is going to be incredibly important over the next period given the level of spending review preparation and the need for finance portfolio to relate with policy, programmes and delivery,’ Russell said.

‘The finance people that we’re working with have started to do a lot of work on preparation for the Spending Review and looking at options on how they can increase efficiency and provide options for any new government.

‘In our view, finance business partners should be at the forefront of the conversation with the policy and director colleagues across the business in shaping those.’

She added that work was being undertaken as part of the financial management review to develop a toolkit for business partnering that all departments could use.

‘We’re really articulating a role for business partners that they should really be at the forefront and challenging their colleagues around different measure of delivery and different policy implementation options that might deliver the same outcome for less resource cost,’ she concluded.

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