Real world experience

Critical Friend Review Public Sector

Critical Friend Review Public Sector

The Treasury requires all departments to manage departmental expenditure to ensure maximum effectiveness, efficiency and economy in the use of public funds. Each department’s Accounting Officer is ultimately responsible to Parliament for keeping spending within control totals and in line with the principles of ‘Managing Public Money’.

Treasury spending control requires all government departments to keep in regular contact with their Treasury spending team, ensuring that any risks to budgetary totals are properly reported.

The Treasury scrutinises and approves project and programme spending outside delegated authorities to ensure that all spending proposals reflect the priorities of the government of the day and meet the criteria for the use of public funds, as documented in Managing Public Money – regularity, propriety, value for money and feasibility. One Treasury department recognised that a CFR was required to provide invaluable feedback in a key programme of work’s ability to deliver its aims and objectives within the agreed timescale, cost envelope and quality requirements.

The role

The CFR team were required to conduct a review just as the project was being set up and had yet to complete its business case. Clarity of any scope, the viability of the governance structure and the buy in from ‘the top of the office’ dominated the assessment.

The CFR Team were required to provide feedback on whether the project, as constituted and on its current trajectory, was likely to achieve a successful outcome. When making their assessment the CFR team reviewed the project’s past progress, current status and declared plans to identify whether a successful outcome will be achieved.

The CFR Team also made recommendations regarding immediate priorities together with appropriate recommendations to address key issues they identified to help the project achieve a successful outcome in the longer term. Each recommendation was assigned a priority rating based on the following definitions:

Critical (Do Now) – To increase the likelihood of a successful outcome the programme/project should take action immediately
Essential (Do By) – To increase the likelihood of a successful outcome the programme/project should take action in the near future
Recommended – The programme/project should benefit from the uptake of this recommendation

Key outcome

• Confidence that the project was on track to achieve a successful outcome
• Recommendations regarding priorities with assigned priority rating
• Confidence that project costs are on or below budget
• Recommendations were linked to project milestones