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Public sector governance and risk

Although arguably necessary to bring order to public financing, the impact of the accelerated public sector funding cuts represents an unprecedented scale of funding reduction.

Internal audit

While the sector has so far risen to the challenge, enduring service and financial pressures create risks and opportunities and have particular implications for governance, risk management and internal control. Boards and senior management are increasingly looking for their advisers to work in partnership with them as they radically review their strategic priorities and demonstrate increased transparency around the use of public funds.


Good corporate governance is a fundamental building block of oversight and effective control in public sector organisations. It has recently received added impetus from the government, for example, by defining a more meaningful role for non-executive directors on key governance forums. In a climate of transformative change, governance has a central role in providing constructive challenges to management as they make difficult decisions around what services are offered, to whom and the resources to support them.

We support our public sector clients with benchmarking, diagnostics, auditing and advice in a way that ensures relevance to the current challenge. This includes:

  • performance evaluations of the key structures and processes associated with governance forums
  • governance health checks detailing the organisation’s predisposition to governance related failings
  • processes used to recruit, retain and develop non-executives, including performance management processes
  • individual board member coaching and collective board evaluation.

We publish annual reports on governance across the public, not for profit and commercial sectors to support our clients in achieving best governance practice both within, and outside of, their peer group

Risk management

Increased pressure to cut costs has placed a greater onus on management and audit committees to provide sharper focus on their real risks. This has led to legitimate scrutiny of whether risk management processes and systems offer real value and impact for public sector clients. Organisations are now looking afresh at their risk management principles and processes.

We work with public sector bodies to keep their risk processes simple so that they can focus on their key risks. We provide risk management reviews, risk strategy development and risk management implementation support services. Using proprietary, sophisticated web-based survey tools to assess risk maturity, we enable clients to better understand which practical aspects of their risk processes are working well and what can be improved further.

We work flexibly with our clients to:

  • put in place a risk management framework, giving best practice examples that can be tailored to requirements
  • support the identification and assessment of risks, usually by facilitating workshops with managers and staff
  • provide training to the board and audit committee on their governance roles and responsibilities.

Technology risk

Public sector organisations rely significantly on IT, yet in the current economic environment poor returns on major IT investments are perhaps the major concern of IT directors and those responsible for risk management. Recent publications on public sector investment in IT have highlighted significant failings from a tendency for projects to be too big and leading to greater risk and complexity, to a reluctance on the part of public bodies to adapt 'off the shelf' systems, as well as a failure to develop interoperable systems.

Grant Thornton's technology risk service provides pragmatic assurance and/or advisory services. This includes the evaluation of IT strategy and governance, analysis of IT applications, IT risk and controls assessment and infrastructure, as well as security, internet and firewall testing, to provide assurance to IT and risk directors. On the advisory side we provide hands on support for implementing specific IT solutions.

This includes:

  • implementation of software solutions for purchase invoice and payment automation, through a partnership with Basware. This automation solution enables a 40%-60% reduction of an organisation’s invoice processing of workload and costs, removing the need to manually check, internally distribute or archive paper-based invoices.
  • SAP software implementation services, particularly for small and medium size public sector entities. Business ByDesign is a complete solution delivered as an on-demand service via a secure Internet connection and a standard Web browser. The integrated suite is delivered in modules, which means that the client can start small and add modules as they grow.

Irrespective of whether organisations have assurance or advisory needs (and regardless of subject specialism) we offer one point of contact that provides the right tailored experts and solutions to meet clients’ challenges. Our effective engagement with senior management and boards ensures that our work is focused on client specific context.

Our business risk services team is a dedicated national team of 120 risk and assurance professionals, with significant experience of working in partnership with government departments, non-departmental public bodies and other public bodies. We also have proven international capability and experience of adding value to clients’ risk, internal audit and business process change programmes.


Martin Gardner

+44 (0)20 7728 2847

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