Say Yes to NAO (National Audit Office)
24/12/2009 - "Say Yes to NAO (National Audit Office)" by Donal Carroll

So the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills want to fund only education that is employer responsive and economically relevant. If this is a change of policy we should ask what has been learned from what has gone before –including what the Government needs to learn.

What can we tell from these two illustrations?

In 2000, the Phoenix 4, a consortium of businessmen, bought MG Rover from BMW for £10 and managed it till it became bankrupt in April 2005. A report in September 2009, stated that the company had pursued to its logical conclusion certain business habits including: maximising short term personal gain; avoid paying tax; hiding poor performance in a web of technical complexity; seeking exorbitant remuneration while avoiding personal accountability; seeing the main stakeholders as themselves. What had these business men learned: that none of this was considered bad practice in the world of business and finance. (Guardian 13/9/09) So what did the Government learn? And how should business education counter this? In November 2009 a National Audit Office (NAO) report revealed that Goldman Sachs (and other City banks) got more than £150m in advising the Treasury how to save banks from going bust. However, the Northern Rock bailout in 2007 cost £70m and the Treasury then signed a deal with Goldman Sachs (GS) with an ill-defined success clause which also permitted GS to keep secret how they calculated the rescue package. The NAO suggests that the Treasury should have learned that it needed to develop its own specialist staff to do this in-house, to avoid such future payments. (Guardian 1/12/09)

So what can be learned from this?

What did the Government learn: servility? learned helplessness? That this is a failure of the greed ideology has been well documented: that banks are too big to fail, that the best minds go into finance, that markets know best, that financial innovation is socially useful, that managers without a moral compass should be free to self regulate. However, we now know that something else needs to be included: that 'return on investment' needs two columns: the benefits of learning and the cost of not learning. Further, I wonder what financial managers could learn from a good public sector manager?


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