Public service managers involved in private finance initiative schemes should be seconded to the private sector to learn more about the workings of commercial organisations, according to a National Audit Office survey.

The NAO examined 120 of the 400 PFI deals currently in force - worth around£100bn across the public sector.

Among its main findings was that around 81 per cent of the public bodies involved believed they were achieving 'satisfactory or better' value for money.

Just 4 per cent said their relationship with their private contractor was 'poor'.

But it also highlighted concerns among contractors about the experience of public service managers in dealing with PFI.

According to the survey, 37 per cent of contractors said authorities' contract management teams would benefit from training - especially in the 'operations of commercial organisations'.

'Contractors suggested that authority staff should be seconded to commercial organisations to gain a greater understanding of how they worked.

'Authorities could also benefit from exchanges between authorities to gain experience of how others manage their relationships.'

The report found that staff within the NHS faced a 'very steep learning curve' because trusts usually procure only one major PFI contract.

But the survey also suggested that private sector managers could benefit from secondment into the public sector.

Auditor general Sir John Bourn said: 'As PFI deals are long-term arrangements, it is essential that authorities and contractors work together as partners to achieve successful outcomes.

'The main elements of a successful relationship between the public and private sectors are to adopt a partnership approach, supported by the right contractual framework, to have the right skills-mix present at the right time and to make the partnership work in practice.'

Managing the Relationship to Secure a Successful Partnership in PFI Projects . National Audit Office. 08457-023474.