Plans and Estimates
33. As in the case of the NAO, the Commission considers
the Corporate Plans of the NIAO in June or July and the draft
Estimates in the following December or January. In December 1996,
the Commission considered the draft Estimate for the NIAO for
1997-98. The Estimate largely followed the proposals set out in
the Corporate Plan for 1997-98 to 1999-2000 which had been endorsed
by the Commission in July 1996. The Estimate budgeted for a 4
per cent increase in work load to be met by a 2 per cent increase
in budget in real terms and 2 per cent efficiency savings.
34. The net provision required in the Estimate (£3,645
million) was £40,000 more than the amount approved in the
Corporate Plan. This increase represented NIAO's higher contribution
to the Department of Finance and Personnel, Northern Ireland (DFP(NI))
resulting from recommendations by the Government Actuary that
contributions should be based on different rates for different
salary bands. The DFP(NI) was content with the Estimate.
35. The main features of the Corporate Plan for 1998-99
to 2000-01 carried forward and developed the objectives for the
NIAO which had been agreed by the Commission in July 1996. Primary
among them were the need to take account of the introduction of
resource accounting and the creation of 15 new Executive Agencies
with a further 11 expected by 2000-01. That meant that the NIAO
would be dealing with an increasing number of Executive Agencies
at a time when it had also to carry out 11 resource account dummy
runs. As a result, forecast expenditure for 1998-99 was £3.843
million, a real terms increase in net expenditure over the previous
year of 2.6 per cent.
36. The Estimate for 1998-99 which the Commission
considered in December 1997 was identical to that in the Corporate
Plan. Due to the financial workload being greater than expected
the net provision of £3.843 million was £118,000 more
than NIAO's PES allocation for 1998-99. This was to be addressed
through in-year Block adjustments in 1998-99.
37. At its meetings in December 1996 and 1997, the
Commission also noted the NIAO Vote on Account which would be
incorporated in an Appropriation Order to be presented in Parliament
in the following Spring.
Audit Arrangements for Public Sector Bodies in Northern Ireland
38. Following the recommendations of the Committee
on Standards in Public Life the Government undertook a review
of the external audit arrangements of public bodies. It consulted
the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland on the
most suitable arrangements for Northern Ireland. After discussions,
the DFP(NI) recommended that, while retaining their distinctive
roles and responsibilities, the audit functions of Health and
Local Government should be attached to the NIAO. The C&AG(NI)
would assume responsibility for the staffing and professional
development of the new divisions and would have a more comprehensive
overview of audit issues in the region. The total complement of
the NIAO would increase from 101 to 126 - the increase being the
number of staff employed by the Health and Local Government Audits.
39. The Commission agreed that the external audit
arrangements should be more independent. It approved the changes
proposed by the DFP(NI).
40. In December 1997 the Commission considered the
procedures to be followed for the appointment of new independent
auditors for the NIAO, following the resignation of Deloitte &
Touche with effect from the audit of the 1996-97 accounts. Although
statutory responsibility rests with the DFP(NI) it was agreed
that, as in 1993 when Deloitte & Touche were appointed,
an appointment would be made only on the advice of the Commission.
41. The Commission has recommended that A S M Horwath
be appointed as auditors of the NIAO for the five-year period
beginning with the 1997-98 accounts. It is grateful to Deloitte
& Touche for they way in which they have discharged their
responsibilities over the last four years.
9 Then Touche Ross Back