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LETTER: Accountability for all

THE establishment of an audit culture in the public sector does not have to imply the constant vigilance and supervision referred to in your editorial last week ("Prisoners of Tory mistrust", 22 October). It can quite happily co-exist in a culture where management does assume that staff operate on the basis of values additional to rational self-interest. However, it requires that managers perceive their role as primarily to support staff rather than to control them.

To achieve this, the defining nature of the relationship management has with staff must be compatible with the nature of the relationship staff are expected to have with their clients or service users. If this congruence of style is perceived by everyone as fundamental, the establishment of audit mechanisms can be understood as a necessary, but collective, responsibility in accountability for the use of public resources.

Audit mechanisms are, nevertheless, an exercise in monitoring and evaluation of performance which is emotionally threatening; all the more reason to contain them within a framework which is supportive rather than the sticks and carrots favoured by the Government.

Dr Roger Booker

London SW18