Prime minister appoints first civil service chief executive

The prime minister has appointed John Manzoni, currently head of the Major Projects Authority (MPA), to the new role of chief executive of the civil service.

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The prime minister has appointed John Manzoni, currently head of the Major Projects Authority (MPA), to the new role of chief executive of the civil service.

Manzoni’s brief will include the digital transformation agendaICT reforms and Whitehall efficiency measures, improving management of major projects such as Universal Credit and HS2, managing suppliers and improving civil service skills.

The government started looking for a chief executive in July, when it said it wanted applications from external candidates within a timetable of just over a month, described as “unrealistically tight” by think tank Institute for Government.

In the end it plumped for a Whitehall appointee recently criticised by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, which said the MPA had failed to rate the beleaguered Universal Credit project in an effort to hide information and avoid scrutiny.

Manzoni will report to civil service head Jeremy Heywood, a Cabinet Office spokesperson told ComputerworldUK.  

The Cabinet Office offered no deatails on when a replacement head of the MPA would be appointed. Part Manzoni's job description will be to “support and challenge” permanent secretaries - the top civil servants in Whitehall departments, in implementing the government’s change agenda.

He will help Heywood to manage permanent secretaries and have input into their performance appraisals, the statement added.

Manzoni joined the civil service eight months ago as chief executive of the MPA, having served as CEO of Canadian oil and gas firm Talisman. He spent 24 years of his career at BP in various senior roles.

Manzoni said: “My priority is building on the existing momentum to strengthen the execution muscle of Whitehall and embed a sustainable productivity agenda across government.”

The Cabinet Office also announced today that from April 2015, there will be a new presumption that senior civil service jobs will be open to external candidates, apart from permanent secretary posts. 

Manzoni is due to start on Monday 13 October on a salary of £190,000 a year.

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