Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Court Funds Office—Funds in Court: Unclaimed Balances: Public Trust Office Accounts 1998-99


The write-off of unrecovered VAT in 1998-99

  Where VAT is recoverable it is recovered for the Public Trust Office (PTO) by the Lord Chancellor's Department. The National Audit Office (NAO) identified that the amount of recoverable VAT that the PTO identified in 1998-99 was more than the Department recovered on the PTO's behalf. NAO recommended that £124,000 be written off as irrecoverable and this sum was charged to the PTO's clients because it was not recovered by the Department. The cost to patients was 0.49 per cent of expenditure. Systems have since been reviewed and the problem of VAT under-recovery has now been resolved.

  The £72,000 of irrecoverable debt was also written off and the cost of doing so was borne by the PTO's clients.


Cost of setting up the Unclaimed Balances Database

  The cost of setting up the Unclaimed Balances database, in terms of staff time and computer hardware costs, was £3,400.


Provide a copy of the mutual confidentiality clause in correspondence between Sir Hayden Phillips and Julia Lomas.

  In Julia Lomas' letter to Sir Hayden Phillips of 17 November setting out her "terms" for early termination of her contract, she said:

      "I would also be seeking mutual confidentiality clauses on both sides"

  Sir Hayden Phillips responded to that letter on 20 December. He said:

  "The other elements of your proposal are a mutual confidentiality clause and an appropriate reference from the Department. I am content to accept both of these elements, with a caveat, which I am sure you will have foreseen, that the Department cannot bind a third party by a confidentiality clause, and in particular could not use it to withhold information from the PAC."

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