OK, there's red tape, but the job's never dull
Public-sector finance: Paul Gosling meets two accountants who gave up their private lives
Wednesday 06 December 1995
Nick Wright is finance and administrative director of the Construction Industry Training Board, having been recruited by NB Selection from the private sector. "I was working for an insurance company that was very entrepreneurial, that had become very big - the insurer I was working for having been taken over by a very large organisation, which put me out of a job.
"I had previously spent three years at Girobank when it was in the public sector, but had looked for more rapidity and flexibility in decision-making.
"I had never heard of the CITB before the job materialised, and I found it a very different environment. I joined at a period of intense change. People with private-sector experience are now rather prized and valued. This has enabled me to move in various ways which someone from a public- sector background would not have been able to do. It is rewarding that there is this open welcome for the skills brought in, and a recognition that they are not already there."
While Mr Wright feels very positive about his experience, which has helped to transform the management of the CITB, he does feel frustrated at what can sometimes be a cumbersome decision-making process. "There is a degree of slowness and bureaucracy at the highest level, with accountability to an outside board, people from the private sector of the construction industry, and there is a lot of bureaucracy and writing of papers and formalising things through committees.
"When there was frustration, I took it up with the chairman, and he sorted it out, though there was still an element in the office of `Has it been to committee?'.
Mr Wright believes that his influence on the organisation has been well received, and has helped the CITB to operate more effectively.
Molly Bickerstaff is the director of purchasing and quality control at the Audit Commission, having previously worked as an auditor for Coopers and Lybrand. She found that on arrival she was distrusted by the people she was regulating, the district auditors - some of whom are employed by private firms, but most of whom work in the public-sector body, District Audit. She also found herself ensuring that auditors in the public sector were not permitted to do the things that she, as a private-sector auditor, had found completely natural.
"We forbid any of our auditors from doing internal audits. I used to do that, and I would have said, `Why not?'. We also ban auditors doing non-audit work, which is a euphemism for consultancy, which might cause a conflict of interest, or perhaps just be seen as a conflict of interest." These things matter a lot more in the public sector, she says.
"District Audit is our majority supplier. To a person they were horrified that I was coming in to do this job of quality control over them. It was a very imaginative decision to employ me from the private sector. District Audit has this culture of being feared and of always being right. They have got more human now."
Ms Bickerstaff recognises that coming in from a different culture can heighten existing conflicts. "Whoever does quality control is going to be hated, but it's not personal," she says. Only about 5 per cent of Audit Commission staff have worked in commerce, she estimates, and, consequently, she is often consulted to give "a private-sector view" of problems. But she adds, "I was impressed by the quality of people at the Commission."
Some assumptions of public-sector life turned out to be false, while others were accurate. "It's just as hard work, though it is true that more people go home by 5 o'clock," says Ms Bickerstaff. "It's a shifting population, with people on secondments, which is very healthy. I expected people to stick in their niches, like Sir Humphrey.
"People left behind in the private sector continue to have funny views. There is a big divide in perceptions. They expect the public sector to be very boring, and that is just not true."
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 Mario Balotelli: Staff at arson-hit Manchester Dogs' Home convinced Liverpool striker is behind five-figure donation
- 2 Friends 20th anniversary: Alison Jackson photographs reunited cast
- 3 There is literally not a single woman in this iPhone 6 queue
- 4 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
- 5 Scottish independence: Tory revolt against 'devo max' grows as Rail Minister Claire Perry joins
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
iJobs Money & Business
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...
Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...
£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...
To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...
Day In a Page
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize