UK government hires chief people and digital officers; Sri Lankan PM’s office breached in protests against corruption: policy & delivery news in brief

By on 14/07/2022 | Updated on 14/07/2022
A picture of the front of the Cabinet Office in Whitehall
Photo by Smuconlaw via Wikipedia Commons

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UK government appoints chief people officer and chief digital officer

Boris Johnson, the UK’s outgoing prime minister, has approved the appointment of a new government chief people officer and government chief digital officer.

Taking on the role of chief people officer is Fiona Ryland, who currently serves as University College London’s chief operating officer. Mike Potter has been appointed chief digital officer. He was Thames Water’s executive director – digital transformation, and group CIO, until earlier this year.

The new hires will begin their roles in autumn 2022, with the primary aim of hastening delivery of key reform ambitions across the civil service.

Commenting on the decisions, Heather Wheeler, cabinet office minister, said: “After a full external search, it’s great to see the civil service attracting such high calibre leaders to help sharpen our focus on delivering for the British public.”

She added that “building a more skilled and efficient civil service is a key priority” for government, which both roles would help to address.

Read more: UK government outlines skills challenges in digital transformation plan

Alex Chisholm, civil service chief operating officer and permanent secretary for the Cabinet Office, said that Ryland would be leading the government’s HR function “at a time of huge change… as we work in partnership with ministers to equip our people to deliver civil service reform”.

He said Potter would be tasked with harnessing “the unprecedented opportunities for digital technologies and data across the civil service”, strengthening UK government delivery both immediately and in the years to come”.

The government had long been trying to recruit a permanent secretary-level government chief digital officer: the job was first advertised in 2017 and renewed in both 2019 and 2020. 

Sri Lankan prime minister’s office breached in protests against corruption

Protesters demanding that Sri Lanka’s president step down for alleged corruption and human rights abuses stormed the government compound in the capital Colombo earlier this week.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the country’s president, fled to the Maldives on a military jet amid the turmoil. He initially refused to resign before agreeing to step down on 13 July. He missed that deadline but Reuters reported this afternoon that he had emailed a letter of resignation to the speaker of Sri Lanka’s parliament.

The prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is understood to have been appointed by Rajapaksa as acting president earlier this week, declared a state of emergency following the unrest.

Rajapaksa was elected in 2019. For months pressure has been mounting on him to resign for his part in a financial crisis that has left the country unable to import food, fuel and medicines, and has seen inflation skyrocket. Rajapaksa and five family members, all of whom hold senior government positions, stand accused of corruption and mismanaging the economy. The United Nations has called the situation on the island, which has a population of 22 million, a humanitarian crisis.

Thousands of protestors gathered outside the prime minister’s office where they were targeted with teargas by police. “We demand that Gotabaya goes and Ranil goes. We want new politicians we can trust. But we can see that he is not listening to us,” one Sri Lankan national said, as reported by local news sources.

Rajapaksa currently has immunity from arrest for his alleged crimes.

Australia announces jobs summit to address economic challenges

The Australian federal government has said it plans to address the country’s economic challenges at a jobs and skills summit in Canberra this autumn, to which a range of sectors, unions and employers as well as civil society and other governments will be invited to attend. 

Prime minister Anthony Albanese said that the summit scheduled for September would aim to help the country create jobs for the future.  He added that the country needed to have “some real discussions about productivity”, a challenge currently faced by businesses and organisations of all sizes.

“We know that the way that you boost growth without putting pressure on inflation is to ensure that productivity is the real focus,” he said. 

Read more: Australia reorganises departments to reflect new government’s priorities

Jim Chalmers, Australia’s treasurer, said that the summit would tap a nationwide appetite for growth. “After a wasted decade of missed opportunities” the government would focus on solving the country’s big economic challenges “to deliver the better future that everyone in Australia wants to see,” he said.

Albanese’s Labor Party was elected in May after nine years of Coalition rule.

Sussan Ley, shadow minister for industry, skills, and training, criticised the announcement of the summit for delaying action around jobs and skills. She said that the challenges of building Australia’s workforce were already well-known to government.

The country’s next budget is expected in October.

Biden directs federal agencies to protect abortion access

President Joe Biden has signed an executive order directing government agencies to use “every tool available to protect access to reproductive healthcare”.  

The move comes after the US Supreme Court’s decision last month to overturn Roe v. Wade ending a constitutional right to abortion, which led some states to enact ‘trigger laws’ banning or severely restricting the procedure.

Under the order, the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) and the White House Gender Policy Council will set up an interagency task force on reproductive healthcare access to coordinate the administration’s efforts. The HHS will oversee efforts to protect and expand access to abortion medication, ensure patients receive emergency care related to pregnancy and pregnancy loss, and boost access to contraception and family planning services.   

Read more: US government makes “commitment to reproductive healthcare” after Roe ruling

The department will also launch an education programme to “ensure Americans have access to reliable and accurate information about their rights and access to care”, and the justice department will convene lawyers, working on a pro bono basis, to represent patients and family planning providers “lawfully seeking or offering reproductive healthcare services throughout the country”. Representation would include protecting women’s right to travel out of state to access abortion services.

The order also seeks to protect patients’ privacy “including by addressing the transfer and sales of sensitive health-related data, combatting digital surveillance related to reproductive healthcare services, and protecting people seeking reproductive healthcare from inaccurate information, fraudulent schemes, or deceptive practices”.

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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