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Transforming the public sector

The role of the CFO in driving change 

As the custodians of some of the largest budgets in the country, the role of the public sector CFO has long been undervalued. The tightening of government revenues, rising levels of demand and increasing pressure on governments to “do more with less” are all leading to increased demands on the public sector CFO to deliver change.

CPA Australia and Grant Thornton thought it critical in the current context of reform to voice the views of public sector CFOs across all levels of government in Australia and New Zealand, to hear their response to current and future challenges and the changing role of the public sector CFO.

Key findings:

  • 42% of CFOs are not members of the executive of their respective agency. This raises a number of questions in relation to how CFOs are contributing to key decisions and the value placed on the role within agencies. 
  • Many CFOs are still primarily focused on transactions, compliance and producing financial statements. Discussions indicated that both capability and capacity contributed to the ability to provide more business analysis and strategic advice. 
  • CFOs capacity to provide strategic advice and analysis was impeded by the number of additional functional areas added to the responsibilities. Some examples cited included; technology, procurement; human resources and building management. 
  • Almost half (45%) were addressing the current fiscal challenges through re engineering business processes. Operational ‘silos’ combined with a cultural resistance to changing ‘the way things have always been done’ were noted as impediments to change.
  • There was consensus amongst CFOs interviewed that the next wave of efficiency would only be realised through greater agency collaboration.