Former Whitehall CPO Bill Crothers part of Greensill inquiry

Former Whitehall CPO Bill Crothers will form part of the review taking place into Greensill Capital and the use of supply chain finance by the UK government.

Official correspondence shows Crothers, who led the creation of the Crown Commercial Service, became an advisor to Greensill Capital in September 2015 before leaving the civil service in November 2015. He went on to become a director at Greensill in late 2016.

Greensill Capital, which went into administration last month, specialised in supply chain finance, in which buyers work with banks and other financial organisations to pay suppliers earlier.

The Cabinet Office (CO) said Crothers’ move was “agreed via the Cabinet Office internal conflicts of interest policy” and in correspondence Crothers said he was “transparent about the move to Greensill Capital”.

Former prime minister David Cameron has already been drawn into the controversy over his role lobbying on behalf of Greensill.

Shadow CO minister Rachel Reeves, calling for a parliamentary inquiry into lobbying, told the House of Commons: “Yesterday we learned that the government’s former head of procurement was an advisor to Greensill while still a civil servant and incredibly that was approved. The defence that it was not uncommon, what on earth was happening in the Cabinet Office and the heart of government to allow these conflicts of interest to fester?”

CO minister Chloe Smith told MPs the government “has a full framework in place to ensure public money is spent efficiently and that those who serve as stewards of these public resources act in accordance with the highest standards”.

She added: “The review will look at the development and use of supply chain finance and associated activities in government and specifically the role of Greensill, including how contracts were secured and business representatives engaged with government. The review will be wide-ranging and also consider the issues raised… regarding Mr Crothers’ role at Greensill Capital.”

Crothers, who was a CIPS trustee for a short period of time before resigning in 2018, became government CPO in 2012 and was appointed chief commercial officer in 2014 after heading the establishment of the Crown Commercial Service.

When he announced he was standing down in 2015 the CO said: “Bill’s expertise will not be lost altogether; he will continue as a commercial advisor to help us improve our commercial capability and advise on our most complex deals.

“Over time, Bill will also take on some similar advisory roles in the private sector.”

Crothers has been approached for comment.

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