By Tony Collins
John Manzoni is to join the civil service as Chief Executive of the Cabinet Office’s Major Projects Authority.
The former BP executive brings 30 years’ commercial experience to the job. He was recently President and CEO of Canadian oil and gas company Talisman Energy Inc. He spent 24 years at BP, holding senior strategic and operational leadership roles at global, regional and local level.
He was a member of the BP plc Main Board from 2003- 2007. The Major Projects Authority was set up in 2011 with a mandate from the Prime Minister to turn around poor project management in Government. It reviews major projects and has the power to stop them in extreme cases.
Manzoni will need a stomach for polite confrontation if his Major Projects Authority is to continue to be effective. Some long-standing executives in departments prefer to carry on without the influence – they call it interference – of the Cabinet Office.
It may be that the only effective way the CEO of the Major Projects Authority can influence in the civil service is by heaping praise on departmental officials while recommending changes he hopes the department will take seriously.
The formidable David Pitchford was interim head of the Authority until he left last September.
“Some of the largest and most complex projects can be found in Government and it’s the scale of the challenge that makes this role interesting. Working with Departments, and at the service of talented civil servants, the MPA has already delivered remarkable improvements.
“To me, the key to its continued success is the quality of project professionals at the centre and in departments. It always comes down to the people.
“If we get this right, it will be a sustainable agenda that is good for all seasons and all political persuasions. It’s hard to fight against the logic of spending large amounts of money more effectively and improving public services at the same time.”
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude says: “John has an impressive record of leading global operations and delivering complex, challenging briefs…
“As part of this Government’s long-term economic plan we must to continue to improve the Civil Service’s management of major projects. Last year the Major Projects Authority saved hard-working taxpayers £1.7bn. I’m confident that with John’s leadership we can go even further and make a real difference to the delivery of these projects which matter to all of us.”
Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury adds: “The Major Projects Authority has real power to intervene in failing projects and stop taxpayers’ money being wasted, and it is already turning around our record of delivering Britain’s most important projects.
“John’s experience speaks for itself …”
Sir Bob Kerslake, Head of the Civil Service says: “Improved project delivery is a crucial part of our Civil Service Reform Plan- indeed, in the future, no one will lead a major project without completing extensive training at the Major Projects Leadership Academy.
“It is fantastic that John Manzoni is bringing his extensive experience to lead the next generation of Civil Service project managers.”
Stephen Kelly, Chief Operating Officer says “The MPA’s success lies in delivering quality outcomes on time within budget, and we are passionate to see MPA become the leading authority in world class project implementation.
“The fusion of private sector best practice with strong public service ethos is key to this future. The MPA has already had a strong start working with departments delivering major public projects and I have no doubt that John’s leadership and proven success will accelerate our delivery.”