John Bourn

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Sir John Bourn KCB (born 21 Feb 1934)[1] then an officer of the British House of Commons, was holder of the office of Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) and, as such, head of the National Audit Office. He took up his post in 1988 after a series of senior appointments in the Ministry of Defence and the Northern Ireland Office. When he became Comptroller and Auditor General (an appointment by the Queen on a motion of the House of Commons) he was working in the Ministry of Defence as a Deputy Under Secretary of State. He also worked in the Treasury, in the Northern Ireland Office in Belfast and London and at the Civil Service College.

Comptroller and Auditor General, the UK National Audit Office[edit]

As head of the National Audit Office Sir John directly employed some 800 staff. The Comptroller and Auditor General and the National Audit Office is totally independent of the UK Government and neither he nor the staff are actually civil servants. He certified the accounts of all UK Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he had statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies use their resources. These value for money studies yielded annual savings exceeding seven time the cost of running the National Audit Office. Under his leadership the National Audit Office won contracts to carry out substantial work overseas, including for the United Nations, the European Commission, and for a number of countries around the world. During his tenure Sir John was Chairman of the Multilateral Audit Advisory Group of the World Bank, and he also was a member (and Chairman) of the Panel of External Auditors of the United Nations. Additionally, he was a member of the Governing Boards of the International and of the European Organisations of National Audit Offices and Courts of Audit.

He was also the first Auditor General for Wales until Jeremy Colman took over this role on 1 April 2005.[2] On 25 October 2007 his office announced that he would step down in 2008 after 20 years as Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) and head of the National Audit Office to avoid any conflicts of interest with other posts he holds. In his book "Public Sector Auditing: Is it Value for Money?" Sir John reflected on his work at the NAO and offered his own account of the role and influence value for money auditing has in holding governments to account and in helping public bodies improve the ways in which they deliver services:

"I also thought that the National Audit Office had a great opportunity to add to its traditional responsibility for seeing that money was spent legally. It had a new responsibility – given to it by the National Audit Act of 1983 – to encourage the achievement of value for money in government spending programmes by developing performance auditing. We must remember that money may be spent legally, but it still may be wasted, with results that are disappointing and the very reverse of value for money."[3]

Other Appointments and Work[edit]

Sir John served as a Board Member of the Financial Reporting Council and as Chair of the Professional Oversight Board of the Council and its predecessor body, the Review Board of the Accountancy Foundation 2000-2008. The council’s responsibilities include the oversight of public and private sector financial service providers, including accountants, auditors and actuaries. The tasks of the Financial Reporting Council are to set standards for corporate governance, reporting, auditing and actuarial practice; monitor and, where appropriate, enforce the application of those standards; and work with the accountancy and actuarial professions to promote the professionalism of their members. The Council and its Boards are engaged in international discussions with financial services regulators in the US, France, Germany, the European Commission and other countries.

Sir John has been a part-time teacher at the London School of Economics since he was a graduate student, serving as a visiting professor from 1983 to 2013. He continues to teach at the School on executive and custom programmes, with particular reference to students and participants from overseas, including India, Indonesia, China and Hong Kong, Brazil, Thailand, Kazakhstan, and Spain. He specialises in issues of public sector management and policy analysis, including financial management, accountancy and audit, and covers UK and overseas experience. In May 1998 he was awarded an Honorary Degree from the Open University as Doctor of the University, having also being awarded the highest honour from the London School of Economics, an Honorary Fellow.[4] He started his career at the London School of Economics where he took a first class honours degree in Economics and a PhD. Sir John is also an Honrary Fellow of the University of Brighton, an Honorary Doctor of Laws of Brunel University, and an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration of the University of the West of England.[5]

Sir John is currently Senior Advisor to the Foundation for Governance Research and Education, where he specialises in corporate governance arrangements and improvements in the public and private sectors, particularly in banks. Among other non-executive appointments Sir John is also a Companion of the Institute of Management and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply.

Early years[edit]

Bourn attended Southgate County School from 1945-1951.[6] In 1975, he chaired a committee of British Army, MI5, and Royal Ulster Constabulary officers that recommended the policies of Ulsterisation and criminalisation for the British government effort in the Troubles.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Birthdays", The Guardian: 39 
  2. ^ "The Auditor General for Wales". Wales Audit Office. Retrieved 2009-05-31. 
  3. ^ Retrieved 2007-11-16.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Retrieved 2015-09-20.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Retrieved 2011-07-21.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ Southgate County School notable former pupils Accessed 4 July 2007.

External links[edit]