The OGC after Nigel Smith

5 July 2010
Nigel Smith, chief executive of the OGC, will not be renewing his three-year contract in September. After the OGC was moved out of the Treasury last month this is the second significant change of the coalition government’s cost-cutting and restructuring programme. No successor has been announced, but now that Ian Watmore, formerly chief executive of the Football Association, has been appointed chief operating officer for the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG – of which the OGC is now part) it looks likely the role of Smith’s replacement will be different. And most likely, less senior. In paying tribute to Smith, Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office, forecast: “The OGC will play a key part in the crucial work of the Efficiency and Reform Group.” The OGC’s cost-cutting operations therefore look sure to be subsumed by the ERG, which describes its remit to “bring together in one place all the cross-governmental operational functions, including procurement…”. The feedback from Whitehall for Nigel Smith is good. He is a respected – and likeable – individual. But his tenure has been tricky. Despite his assurances to the contrary, attempts to bring savings have been constrained by a lack of mandate forcing departments to work together. When SM interviewed him after his appointment in 2007, he said “collaboration and data” were his priorities. We asked how he would ensure collaboration among departments that had previously eschewed it. “You’d better come back and ask me in a year’s time, or two or three years’ time”, he said. We are planning a valedictory interview with Smith and look forward to bringing that to you. In the meantime the ERG will have “a very strong mandate at the centre of government to ensure departments work together to tackle waste and improve accountability”. Smith’s other priority, “data”, should remain so for his successor and the ERG. If the latest spending review is to have real credibility both inside and outside Whitehall, there must be clarity over the starting point and the methodology for measuring savings.
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