Fiscal pressure on government departments is set to continue through the next Parliament, with citizen expectations continuing to rise. With the ‘more for less’ challenge continuing indefinitely and an increasingly complex public sector landscape, a strong and integrated finance function across government is crucial.

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In May 2013, the NAO and the Chartered Institute of Management Accounting (CIMA) convened a panel of finance experts from across the public and private sectors to improve shared understanding around the best use of costing information and techniques. The panel took the opportunity to focus its attention on supporting the implementation of the government’s Financial Management Review (FMR) by identifying ways in which a strong, integrated finance function can help accounting officers, permanent secretaries and boards deliver value and support accountability.

This report draws on the combined expertise of the public and private sector members of the panel and the case examples they have provided.

Key messages:

  • Government finance needs to evolve from a focus on transactions and external reporting, to supporting senior decision makers to deliver better value and outcomes.
  • A strong, integrated finance function has two essential contributions: understanding costs, and understanding how inputs translate into value, both currently and in the future.
  • To enable a more effective finance function, Government departments must first understand their current and destination delivery models.

Government leaders must demand, use and reward the right management information.

October 2014