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Appointment of Dame Fiona Reynolds DBE as next Chair of the National Audit Office

Dame Fiona Reynolds DBE has today been announced by the Prime Minister and the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) as the next Chair of the National Audit Office (NAO).

Dame Fiona has been chosen following an open competition that was led by Parliament, with the preferred candidate chosen by a selection panel that included the Chair of PAC, the Auditor General for Scotland and the Permanent Secretary of the Treasury. She will succeed Lord Michael Bichard as the NAO Chair when his tenure ends, taking up the post from January 2021.

Dame Fiona is the current Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in post since 2012. She came to the college after a long career in the voluntary and public sectors, latterly as Director-General of the National Trust from 2001-2012. Before joining the National Trust, she was Director of the Women’s Unit in the Cabinet Office (1998-2000), Director of the Council for the Protection of Rural England (now Campaign to Protect Rural England) from 1987-98 and Secretary to the Council for National Parks (now Campaign to Protect National Parks) from 1980-87. Dame Fiona is also an Honorary Fellow of the British Academy.

Dame Fiona also holds a number of non-Executive roles. She is a Trustee of the Grosvenor Estate, a Non-Executive Director of Wessex Water, Chair of the Green Alliance, the International National Trusts Organisation, the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England and Cambridge University’s Botanic Garden.

The role of Chair is to provide leadership and direction to the NAO Board, setting its agenda and leading the non-executive members in providing constructive challenge and support to the NAO’s executive management and the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG). The Chair ensures that the NAO meets the requirements of the Budget Responsibility and National Audit Act, and the Board’s own Code of Practice.

Gareth Davies, Comptroller and Auditor General said: 

“I am delighted that Dame Fiona will be joining the NAO Board as its Chair, following on from Michael Bichard’s excellent leadership over the last six years.

“I look forward to working with her to ensure that the NAO fulfils its crucial mission as the UK’s public spending watchdog in the coming years.”

Lord Michael Bichard, current chair of the NAO said: 

“Dame Fiona’s experience makes her the ideal person to become the new NAO Chair. Chairing the NAO is a privilege and a chance to make a difference to the way our public services are delivered.

“I look forward to the final six months of my term before handing over to Dame Fiona, who I know will be an excellent successor in taking forward the NAO’s new five-year strategy.

Dame Fiona Reynolds, future chair of the NAO said:

“I am very much looking forward to joining the NAO as chair. The NAO plays a vital role in driving public sector improvement and supporting Parliament in responding to the challenges facing government.

“I hope to follow in the footsteps of Lord Michael Bichard by providing sound leadership to the board and helping to implement the NAO’s new strategy, helping the NAO to make a bigger difference by further improving support for effective accountability and scrutiny, increasing the impacts on outcomes and value for money and sharing knowledge more effectively.”

Notes for Editors

  1. The NAO’s governance arrangements are established under the Budget Responsibility and National Audit Act 2011 (BRANNA). The Board has a majority of non-executive members and is an effective and established part of the NAO’s governance. The NAO’s first Chair, Professor Sir Andrew Likierman, was appointed in 2011. The term of office of the current Chair, Lord Michael Bichard, will come to an end in January 2021. The NAO Chair serves for a period of three years, which may be extended for an additional three year period. The Board comprises four non-executive directors in addition to the Chair, the Comptroller and Auditor General and three members of the NAO executive team.
  2. The NAO Chair is responsible for providing leadership and direction to the Board as a whole. The Chair sets the agenda for the work of the Board and leads the non-executive members in providing constructive challenge and support to the executive management and the C&AG. The Chair ensures that the NAO meets the requirements of the Budget Responsibility and National Audit Act, and the Board’s own Code of Practice (a document agreed by the Public Accounts Commission which sets out how the Board will work with the C&AG).
  3. The preferred candidate for the NAO Chair was identified by a panel Chaired by Meg Hillier, MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Sir Tom Scholar, Permanent Secretary at HMT, Caroline Gardner, Auditor General, Scotland, and Sarah Davies, Clerk Assistant, House of Commons. The panel were assisted by Saxton Bampfylde as recruitment consultants. The recruitment process followed the principles of the Commission for Public Appointments. Following interviews, the Chair of the panel wrote to the Prime Minister recommending Dame Fiona be appointed. Under the BRANNA the Prime Minister is required to move the Motion for a Humble Address and he must have the agreement of the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
  4. Dame Fiona Reynolds DBE will be taking up her post as chair in January 2021. Her role as Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge will continue until July 2021.

About the NAO

The National Audit Office (NAO) scrutinises public spending for Parliament and is independent of government and the civil service. It helps Parliament hold government to account and it use its insights to help people who manage and govern public bodies improve public services. The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Gareth Davies, is an Officer of the House of Commons and leads the NAO. The NAO audits the financial accounts of departments and other public bodies. It also examines and report on the value for money of how public money has been spent. In 2019, the NAO’s work led to a positive financial impact through reduced costs, improved service delivery, or other benefits to citizens, of £1.1 billion.


NAO Press Office
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PN: 31/20