Today’s report from the National Audit Office (NAO) examines the progress government has made in developing specialist skills across the civil service.

Government supports the development of specialist skills through cross-government functions, which develop and deliver expertise to government departments.1 Today’s report focuses on the Cabinet Office’s progress overseeing the functions and four functions in particular: Commercial, Digital, Finance and Project Delivery.

The NAO finds that the Cabinet Office now sets clear expectations for the performance of functions and requires regular reporting on their costs and benefits. Functions have also become more established as the means for advancing specialist skills and expertise across government. However, for the functional model to fully succeed, departments need to consistently embed the expertise of the functions in their business planning.

Today’s report builds on the NAO’s previous work in this area, including its 2017 report Capability in the Civil Service.2 It explores:

  • the Cabinet Office’s oversight of the functions;
  • the functions’ progress in developing specialist skills; and
  • areas that the functions need to develop further.

Read the full report

Specialist skills in the civil service

Notes for editors

  1. Functions aim to develop and deploy specialist expertise across government. Typically, functions set cross-government strategies, set and assure standards, develop capability, give expert advice, drive continuous improvement, and develop and deliver commonly required services. This report is based on audit work undertaken between August and November 2019. It does not look at additional work the Cabinet Office has done in this area since then.
  2. See the NAO’s 2017 report into Capability in the Civil Service:
  3. This report by the Comptroller and Auditor General will be available from the date of publication on the NAO website.

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.

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