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John Alexander Manzoni (born 1960) is a British civil servant and business executive. He was the responsible board member at BP at the time of the Texas City Refinery explosion, and now serves as Chief Executive of the Civil Service and the Permanent Secretary for the Cabinet Office.[1]

John Manzoni
John Manzoni.jpg
Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary
Assumed office
August 2015
Cabinet Sec.Sir Jeremy Heywood
Mark Sedwill
MinisterMatt Hancock
Ben Gummer
Damian Green
David Lidington
Oliver Dowden
Preceded byRichard Heaton
Chief Executive of the Civil Service
Assumed office
13 October 2014
HeadSir Jeremy Heywood
Mark Sedwill
MinisterDavid Cameron
Theresa May
Boris Johnson
Preceded byBob Kerslake
Chief Executive of the Major Projects Authority
In office
February 2014 – 13 October 2014
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byDavid Blackall
Personal details
Born1960 (age 58–59)
Alma materImperial College, London and Stanford University
OccupationBritish businessperson and civil servant


Early life and educationEdit

Manzoni read for a BSc in Civil Engineering and an MSc in Petroleum engineering at Imperial College, London before joining BP in 1983. He later undertook a Master of Science in Management as a Sloan Fellow at Stanford University in 1994.


Business careerEdit

Manzoni was Chief executive for Refining & Marketing at BP at the time of the Texas City Refinery explosion in 2005, in which 15 people were killed and 170 injured, and was thus the responsible board member.[2] An internal BP investigation cleared him of "serious neglect or intentional misconduct" but said he should have taken more steps to consider and mitigate the risks long before the disaster occurred.[3] The investigation found Manzoni had paid insufficient attention to safety and failed to spot clear warning signs. It accused him of failing to perform his duties in the run-up to the explosion and of engaging in a "simply not acceptable" standoff with a colleague. Regulators levied a then-record fine of $21m (£13m) on BP for breaching safety rules.[4]

Shortly after the release of the BP report in 2007, Manzoni left BP after 24 years to be the chief executive officer of Talisman Energy, an oil and gas exploration and production company.[5] He replaced James Buckee, who had headed the company for 14 years.[6] During his time at Talisman the company focused on shale gas, selling a non-controlling stake in its North Sea business to Sinopec in July 2012.[7] In July 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency reported that it had fined Talisman Energy $62,457 for more than 50 health and safety violations at sites in Pennsylvania.[8] Manzoni resigned from Talisman and was replaced by Hal Kvisle in September 2012.[9]

Civil Service careerEdit

In February 2014, Manzoni joined the British Civil Service in a senior role as Chief executive of the Major Projects Authority, a role under the remit of the Cabinet Office.[10] His former BP boss John Browne, Baron Browne of Madingley, who had also left BP in 2007 and to whom Manzoni had been second-in-command, sat on Manzoni's appointment panel.[11]

On 13 October 2014, Manzoni was appointed to be the first chief executive officer of the Civil Service, after the position was split out from that of the Head of The Home Civil Service when Sir Bob Kerslake retired.[12] A number of leading executives who had been approached for the role were reported to have turned it down,[13] with one commenting that the job was "un-doable", and the FT reported a Cabinet Office source saying that the government had drawn up a 'plan B' to appoint Manzoni[14] As of September 2015, Manzoni was paid a salary of between £230,000 and £234,999, making him one of the 328 most highly paid people in the British public sector at that time.[15]

Criticism and controversyEdit

Mismanagement of digital governmentEdit

A part of Manzoni's remit as Chief Executive of the Civil Service is "the digital transformation of public services and the way government works".[16] However, he has been criticised for 'undermining digital progress in Whitehall'[17] and of not 'getting digital',[18] particularly since his leadership has coincided with the departure of two successive Directors of the Government Digital Service within 9 months.[19]

The criticism comes from a difference in philosophies of the delivery of digital projects. Manzoni has publicly asserted his belief in a small centre of government and getting departments to take on as much capacity as possible.[20] This distributed approach to government technology is widely considered to be a retrograde step, returning UK government to a pre-2010 era[18] of frequent major IT disasters.

Questions have also been raised about Manzoni's grasp over the Civil Service itself: in the words of one critic, "it now looks like he is being toyed with by the Civil Service's most experienced turf warriors in HMRC and DWP".[21]

Accusations have also been levelled that due to Manzoni's approach to digital government, lower-quality digital services are now being allowed to ship to the public. Specifically, a tax website that was deemed not good enough to be named a 'beta' has taken on that status, despite failing a gateway review.[22] In the words of Civil Service World, a magazine for civil servants, "the Government Digital Service shake-up is a victory for senior officials at the expense of citizens[19]".

Conflicts of interest as a civil servantEdit

As of 2015, Manzoni continues to be a non-executive director for SABMiller, for which he is paid £100,000 a year.[23] This has been criticised by MP Sarah Wollaston and others who say it undermines his credibility as an impartial official. SABMiller was one of the drinks firms that opposed the introduction of minimum alcohol pricing, a policy which was considered by the Department of Health at the time.[11][24]


  1. ^ "New Permanent Secretary for Cabinet Office announced: John Manzoni – Press releases – Government of the United Kingdom". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  2. ^ "SAB.ZA Company Profile & Executives – SABMiller PLC – Wall Street Journal". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  3. ^ "Former BP man secures role as Whitehall's first chief executive". Financial Times. 2 October 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  4. ^ "Ex-BP oil disaster and fracking executive to lead big government projects". The Guardian. 3 February 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  5. ^ "John Manzoni – Incoming President and CEO, Talisman Energy Inc" (pdf). Talisman Energy. 2007. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  6. ^ "Globe & Mail: Jim Buckee: Talisman's retired contrarian picks his next fight". Royal Dutch Shell plc .com. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  7. ^ "Talisman announces North Sea stake sale to Sinopec of $1.5bn – BBC News". Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  8. ^ "Talisman Energy to pay $62,000 penalty for violations at 52 natural gas facilities in Pa". 25 July 2012. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  9. ^ Mason, Rowena (3 February 2014). "Ex-BP oil disaster and fracking executive to lead big government projects". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
  10. ^ "Former BP executive Manzoni gets top Whitehall job". BBC News. 3 October 2014. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
  11. ^ a b "New civil service chief must resign from second job, says health committee chair". The Guardian. 13 October 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  12. ^ "Chief executive for civil service appointed – Press releases – Government of the United Kingdom". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  13. ^ Neville, Sarah; Rigby, Elizabeth (14 September 2014). "Sir Ian Cheshire rejects offer of top Whitehall job". Financial Times. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
  14. ^ "UK business chiefs turn down new Whitehall post". Financial Times. 18 August 2014. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  15. ^ "Senior officials 'high earners' salaries as at 30 September 2015 – Government of the United Kingdom". Government of the United Kingdom. 17 December 2015. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  16. ^ "John Manzoni – Government of the United Kingdom". Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  17. ^ "J'accuse John Manzoni Part 2 – A Digital Purge". diginomica. 1 August 2016. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  18. ^ a b "Revealed: The battle for GDS – how Whitehall mandarins are trying to carve up digital strategy". Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  19. ^ a b "The Government Digital Service shake-up is a victory for senior officials at the expense of citizens | Civil Service World". Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  20. ^ "Interview: John Manzoni | Civil Service World". Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  21. ^ Greenway, Andrew (1 August 2016). "Losing one is a misfortune. Two?". Medium. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  22. ^ "No matter what happens next, GDS's long-term future is not assured – Computer Weekly Editor's B". Computer Weekly. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  23. ^ 4-traders. "John Alexander Manzoni, MBA – Biography". Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  24. ^ "Minimum unit price '50 times more effective' than alcohol floor price – BBC News". Retrieved 5 July 2015.

External linksEdit

Business positions
Preceded by
James Buckee
Chief Executive Officer, Talisman Energy
2007 to 2012
Succeeded by
Hal Kvisle
Government offices
New title Chief Executive, Major Projects Authority
February to October 2014
Succeeded by
David Blackall
Preceded by
Sir Bob Kerslake
as Head of the Home Civil Service
Chief Executive of the Civil Service
2014 to present
Preceded by
Richard Heaton
Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office
2015 to present