Thursday 6 September 2012

Probably not the last victim of Sir David Normington's success

Sometimes it seems as if half the senior decision-makers in Whitehall are former Accenture partners.

But no-one writes "there must be something rotten at Accenture, when so many of their partners are on a veritable stampede for the exit".

Unlike Accenture, the UK public sector employs about six million people. (Six million!) But when one of them announced her departure last month, Dame Helen Ghosh, permanent secretary at the Home Office, what did Sue Cameron write in the Telegraph?
Why are Whitehall's top mandarins running for the exit?
There must be something rotten in the Coalition, when so many of our top civil servants are on a veritable stampede for the exit. Right across government the mandarins are shaking the dust of Whitehall from their feet and moving on to bigger, better jobs elsewhere. They include senior officials at Education, the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Justice, International Development, Energy, and the Home Office ...
The BBC profile of her reminds listeners of the time when Dame Helen was called before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to explain various mishaps that took place at DEFRA while she was permanent secretary there. With "the public interest" striped into her very bones like a stick of seaside rock, Dame Helen refused to attend and had to be ordered.

She was there again yesterday, up in front of the beak, Margaret Hodge, trying to explain why she had had to hire back UK Border Agency staff and UK Border Force staff who had been previously laid off with tens of thousands of pounds in severance pay in the name of government cuts. According to Martin Beckford in the Telegraph:
Dame Helen ... defended the arrangements by saying that all of the returnees had to wait at least six months before going back to work, otherwise they would have had to repay the lump sums.
Simon Jenkins isn't going to put up with a non sequitur like that when Dame Helen is working for the real National Trust and apparently the PAC wasn't having any truck with it either:
She did however admit that the Border Agency – which has faced repeated criticism for losing track of illegal immigrants, allowing in bogus students and causing delays at airports – had got rid of too many people too quickly since the election as it tried to cut costs.
Maybe the Home Office will survive her loss after all. There could even be an article in it for Sue Cameron. And this time maybe she'll pay a bit of attention to Sir David Normington.


Televised proceedings of yesterday's PAC:

See also:
Nicholas Watt, 6 March 2011, The GuardianDavid Cameron calls civil servants 'enemies of enterprise'
Jill Sherman and Richard Ford, 15 November 2011, The Times, Borders row blocks first woman from top Civil Service job
Editorial, 15 March 2012, The GuardianCivil servants and MPs: settling accounts
Patrick Wintour, 13 April 2012, The GuardianCivil service exodus sees one third of senior officials leave
Christopher Hope, 13 April 2012, The TelegraphA quarter of senior civil servants quit Whitehall under Coalition
Jill Sherman, 18 June 2012, The TimesMinisters demand right to sack Whitehall mandarins

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