Headlines: January 29th, 1999

Cabinet Office staff have been given a ticking off by the National Audit Office for failing to give sufficient management attention to proper record-keeping during the sale of public assets.Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, says that Cabinet Office’s sale of Chessington Computer Centre, Recruitment and Assessment Services and Occupational Health and Safety Agency all suffered from lateness in accounts which affected final sale figures and cost the public money.

He says successful sales are not simply the result of good negotiations. Late accounts also meant confusion over who owned what at what time and disputes over details like the cost of leave entitlement ex-government staff took with them.

Chessington Computer Centre provided computerised payroll and other administrative services to central government and was was sold in July 1996 in a management, employee and private sector team buyout. Recruitment and Assessment Services provided recruitment and personnel services to government departments and was sold to Capita Group in September 1996. The Occupational Health and Safety Agency advised government departments on occupational health matters and was sold to a division of General Healthcare Group in September 1996.