Tag Archives: Public sector

Jonathan’s Public Sector Diary – Q1 2013

Hi, I’m Jonathan and I am an Associate in Public Sector Assurance working from the Birmingham Office. The aim of this blog is to give an insight into the life of a Public Sector Assurance trainee, the clients we work with and my experiences so far.

Public Sector Assurance at Grant Thornton has grown rapidly in the last six months with over 300 former Audit Commission staff joining across the UK in November 2012, bringing with them their wide-ranging portfolio of clients making Grant Thornton UK LLP the leading provider of audit services to the Public Sector. Typical clients in this sector are Local Government, NHS and Police Authorities, but there are also opportunities to work with not-for-profit organisations such as Housing Associations (the sector I worked in before joining Grant Thornton) and academic institutions.

Since joining in January 2013 I have worked with a clients in local government and a Police Authority. The work I have done so far has contributed to the ‘interim’ stage of the audit, which is essentially planning and preparation for the audit of clients final produced accounts. During this period I have travelled to areas such as the Peak District and also central Birmingham (a convenient two minute walk from the office!).

During my long commutes to the Peak District I had the opportunity to listen to morning radio, and what has really struck me is how the public sector makes the headlines on an almost daily basis. If it is not an NHS Trust making the headlines, it is a Police Authority or a Local Council! This shows how dynamic the sector is and how important the work we do is to ensuring that public money is being spent correctly.

As I write this blog I think about the experiences I have already had in the (nearly) four months I have been at Grant Thornton. Training for my Police audit has seen me go down to our Finsbury Square office in London and I have driven around cross-referencing physical assets (such as a Caravan park!) with deeds held by a Council.

The Public Sector busy season begins next week as NHS final accounts begins. This will be my first experience of final accounts (the audit of the financial accounts produced by the client) and I have no doubt that this will be hard work. Long hours will need to be put in but above all I am looking forward to the new experiences NHS final accounts will bring to continue my learning and development. Once NHS final accounts have been completed we move straight onto local government and police final accounts (after a brief holiday for me) and I look forward to telling you about what I have been up to.

If you have any questions you can find me on Twitter @GT_JonathanM or feel free to comment below.

Thanks for reading!

A Problem with Drainage in the Lower Fields

One thing I’ve written about in previous blogs on being a member of the public sector assurance team is the variety of clients that make up the public sector. The satisfaction this gives me as a public sector audit trainee in gaining a wider understanding of the way our country functions is one of the highlights of my role.

You won’t have been able to ignore that that just before Christmas it seemed to be raining non-stop in the UK. This deluge lead to widespread flooding causing property damage and major travel disruption, especially in South West England. A type of body which you might not be familiar with are the internal drainage boards that maintain the system of dykes, sluices and water ways which help alleviate the effects of flooding and protect areas of the country from being inundated by water. Added to the various NHS and Local Government clients this is another example of the variety of bodies that the Public Sector Assurance team provide services too. This is great for me as I come from a farming background and love finding out about this sort of clients industry and activities, not to mention it means I get to verify the existence of specialist items of plant of machinery like massive excavators and tractors.

Another thing that people will be aware of at the moment is the amount of household waste that homes generate. Many wheelie bins on my street are bursting with the extra waste that people have produced over Christmas. The waste has to go somewhere if it can’t be recycled. In many cases the waste is dealt with by the local authority or service organisations who have the contract to collect and process the waste on the local authorities behalf. In some cases separate public bodies deal with the waste. Again this is a type of client which we advise.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the way that the public sector works and how it interacts with almost every part of our daily lives that I recommend finding out more about our positions in public sector assurance (of which we are the market leader), we still have positions in a number of offices for 2013 starts.

Any questions please get in touch on the forums or on Twitter @GT_Will.

Merry Christmas from Grant Thornton

Hi, I’m Megan and you first heard from me just over a month ago when I shared my tips on how to stand out from the crowd at assessment centres, it’s been a busy month for us trainees so I thought I’d check-in to let you know what we’ve been up to.

Firstly, in the public sector assurance division we welcomed our new colleagues from the Audit Commission at the beginning of November, it was an exciting time seeing new faces around the office and racing to find a hot-desk in the morning; for me in Bristol it has also most certainly quadrupled my tea round! During the month we all attended a conference “The Best of Both Worlds” at a hotel in Birmingham to get a chance to interact with all of our new joiners and learn what we can take from each other to progress as a unified super-team. As a ‘teambuilding’ experience we were all given instruments (some people had big drums, others maracas, I was stuck with a cow bell to bash at like an infant) and were led by a man that looked remarkably similar to Stavros Flatley into producing a tuneful racket which caused a lot of laughing (and probably some headaches).

Moving on to less exciting notes, many trainees of all levels faced imminent exams, with most at the end of November or beginning of December. As I am a first year CIPFA student I had two exams (Financial Accounting and Management Accounting) to contend with, which I sat in Cardiff. After spending many hours poring over financial statements and budgets I am glad it is all over and can finally enjoy the build-up to Christmas. We will not receive our results until February so for now all we can do is keep our fingers crossed and munch on a few mince pies (not to mention the mulled wine).

Now in my fourth month at Grant Thornton I am being given more responsibility and being let loose on clients more frequently than in my orientation period. It has been fun to travel and get out of the office and a great challenge to learn-by-doing whilst producing work of a high standard. As always, other trainees and managers were on hand when I needed to ask questions – of which there were many.

I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. For those who are faced with exams in the New Year good luck but I’m sure you can still fit in a few hours of crying at the John Lewis advert and picking out all the good Quality Streets before anyone else gets to them. I’m looking forward to lounging in my onesie whilst eating leftover turkey and watching a re-run of a film I’ve seen 20 times already. I’ll leave you on that thought…

Georgina’s first year at Grant Thornton

It seems like a very long time ago that I joined Grant Thornton, even though it was only 11 months ago when I was sailing down the River Thames with the rest of the new trainees from across the country during our National Induction. Just one of the highlights of my year so far.

I have had lots of good experiences since starting work within the Public Sector Assurance team in Cardiff. The team works closely with the Public Sector Assurance team in Bristol, which means I work across the south west of England and Wales – from Aberystwyth to Plymouth. We work in small teams on each of our clients therefore from day one you are an important member of the team and are given responsibilities which helped to build my confidence. I have worked with a range of clients – Local Authorities, NHS bodies and central government. I have enjoyed gaining this varied experience.

The most surprising experience I have had so far was when I was working at a client’s site and the Chief Executive offered me a morning cup of tea! Further to my surprise, later on in the afternoon, she returned later to offer me a slice of pizza as the staff were having takeaway pizza for their lunch.

Along with working, every couple of months I go to college in London to study towards the CIPFA qualification. I enjoy training at college and then being able to relate, and apply this knowledge within my every day work.

This year Grant Thornton has won the largest percentage of Audit Commission work making Grant Thornton the largest provider of Public Sector Assurance in the UK. In November, we look forward to welcoming Audit Commission staff to our team. Over the past year we have been very busy and it is an extremely exciting place to work. I have had experiences that have been completely unexpected. So who knows what the next 12 months will bring? all I know is that I am looking forward to the forthcoming challenges!

Q: What’s the best bit of advice you’ve received?

A: I was told this quote: “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim to low, and achieving our mark.” (Michelangelo Buonarroti).

Q: What’s the best bit of advice you’ve received while working at Grant Thornton?

A: Always take a notepad and pen with you when you go to speak to a client and write down everything they tell you.

Q: What is the best bit of advice you have given a client while working at Grant Thornton?

A: Croatia is a good holiday destination!

Q: What is the best bit of advice you would give someone looking to join Grant Thornton?

A: Work hard, have fun and take time to relax sometimes.

And the Winner is…

This week has certainly been a big week for my department. As you may know I work in Public Sector Assurance which provides audit services to local government and the NHS. This week saw some very significant announcements for my service line. Following a long tendering process with the Audit Commission it was announced on Monday that Grant Thornton has been awarded contracts to deliver local government and NHS audit in the South West, the North West, the West Midlands and South London, Surrey and Kent. These contracts combined are worth 41.3 million pounds per year for five years and will make us the largest single supplier of public sector audit services in England.

In the past this work was carried out by the Audit Commission itself which was one of the first casualties identified in the so called ‘bonfire of the Quangos’ instigated by the Coalition Government when it came into power in 2010. It has taken the past couple of years to complete the tendering process that resulted in the work being contracted out to private sector accountancy firms.

I’m very proud to say that Grant Thornton was selected on the basis of the quality and cost effectiveness of our work.. It has been great over the past few days to read about our success in the Financial Times, Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Accountancy publications. It really shows how ambitious the firm is in growing in our target markets and playing to our key strengths.

Not only does this sounds impressive in terms of the market share and financial value it also means that the national assurance team, which I am part of, will be joined by approximately 300 members of Audit Commission staff across the country at the end of this year. It will also mean we will gain hundreds of new audited bodies across the UK. So it will definitely be an exciting and challenging year as the reality of this win comes in to fruition come September.

This is a massive opportunity for myself and my fellow Public Sector Assurance trainees to develop our skills and experience. I will be entering my third year as a graduate trainee in the midst of all of these changes, so potentially I’ll be in a position to in-charge audits at new bodies and work with new colleagues.

Hopefully this news will provide you with some additional inspiration so that you think about applying to work for what will be the largest provider of public sector audit services in the country. We can truly say that Grant Thornton is now leading the way for the future of public audit.

http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/Pages/reduce-audit-fees-by-40-percent.aspx

Taking stock!

I just wanted to give a quick update on my New Year’s resolutions.

You may remember from a previous blog that I’d admitted to having gained a few pounds. Well I’m happy to report my healthier diet has kicked in (less cake, more salad) and I’ve gotten back into a routine of running two of three nights a week.

One of my more formal targets was to pass my professional exams, and I’m happy to report that I passed all four of the modules I sat last December, getting an average of 81% which I’m really proud of given that there is pressure in juggling life, work and study. Unfortunately for my slimming down mission this meant celebratory sausage butties in the office and then celebratory drinks and dinner that evening, which I think resulted in me in gaining more weight than I lost that week.

Another one of my target resolutions was to gain more experience of other service lines in the firm. Even though it’s the start of our government audit busy season I’ve been given the opportunity to travel over to our Euston offices to work with the Social media team in National communications next week, which I’m sure will be an eye opener.

Work wise things are kicking off with our interim audits of large councils and NHS bodies. I’m currently carrying out in-charge duties at one of our hospital clients which involves meeting with finance managers and HR professionals before the audit to give us an understanding of the hospitals financial systems, building projects and other challenges.

This has been a really interesting role, partly as last year was my first year in audit – representing a steep learning curve but also because the way the NHS is organised in England is rapidly changing – meaning getting to grips with how our clients are responding relies on understanding the Government’s policies around healthcare, so keeping up with the news is definitely important.

Speaking of news, it’s the spring Spilling the Beans AGM this Friday. The team will be meeting in our London offices to review our achievements over the last year, which includes winning several awards as part of the firms social media based graduate recruitment campaign. However, what really matters is that we continue to provide what potential trainees need, which is a genuine picture of what working for Grant Thornton is all about.

To make sure we keep providing this and make the site even better we’d appreciate your feedback. What do you think has worked well? What hasn’t been useful at all? What could we have done better? What would you like to see more of? We’re always open to constructive criticism and would be grateful for your input in helping up continue to make this site helpful to those who use it. I’ve opened a forum discussion so please add your comments or you can tweet them to @GT_Will.

How your money is spent?.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post one of the things that attracted me to government assurance was to get an understanding of how, where and why public money is spent. What I’ve found out during my first year is that it’s nowhere near as simple as what is reported on the news or spoken about by MPs and ministers on Newsnight or Question Time.

The amount of money that’s involved is incredible. The size of some of our clients in the public sector is mind boggling. Which showed me how important the role of auditors in the public sector is. Some councils have a turnover of over a billion pounds, have assets worth millions and employ thousands of staff. This hit home on my first day at work which involved auditing a multi-million pound government grant.

I’ve now gone through a full year in government audit, which has seen me audit clients in local government, the NHS, charities, central government and devolved bodies in Wales. The range of services provided by all these organisations really surprised me and I’ve learnt a great deal about how politics and the reality of public services relate to one another.

It hasn’t all been about auditing public sector finances either, some of our work is based on assessing the quality of services and value for money that clients are giving to tax payers. This has been one of the most interesting parts of my role so far, I never thought that my role would involve interviewing consultant surgeons, cancer specialists and nurses at hospitals about waiting time targets and how the hospital was trying to prevent the spread of MRSA.

My career in finance after the first year has been really interesting so far and I’ve only just started finding out where tax payers money is spent.

And now for something completely different…

We’re a mixed bunch of trainees in the Spilling The Beans team. Some of us are auditors, some work in tax. Some are school leavers and some are graduate trainees.

Nevertheless, all of us enrol in professional training towards an accountancy qualification. You may already know about ACA, CTA and AAT, but you may not be aware that Grant Thornton offer specific training for our government audit trainees. This specific training goes towards the Chartered Public Finance Accountancy qualification offered by CIPFA and delivers training and skills for our client work.

Basically, CIPFA provides a solid grounding in accountancy just like ACA but with added training and associated qualifications focussing on the functions of government, government funding, and how funding is regulated. What made this route of entry and training appeal to me was the opportunity to understand where all my and everyone else’s tax goes, how the health service works and what happens with the