House of Commons Commission - Twenty-Third Annual Report

Audit CommitteeAnnual Report for 2000-01

1.  This is the first Annual Report of the House of Commons Audit Committee, which was established by the Commission on 15 May 2000. The genesis of the Committee was the Review of Management and Services of the House of Commons by a team led by Mr Michael Braithwaite, which was published by the Commission in July 1999.

2.  That Review examined the control and direction of the House's audit. It concluded that an Audit Committee, with an external element, would enable the House to comply with public sector best practice.

3.  The Committee's membership is in accordance with the recommendations of the Braithwaite review:

  • Mrs Angela Browning MP (Chairman) (Sir George Young MP was Chairman until 20 November 2000);
  • Mr Archy Kirkwood MP;
  • the Clerk of the House;
  • the Director of Finance and Administration; and
  • Sir Thomas Legg KCB QC (external member)

4.  Its terms of reference were adopted by the Commission on 15 May:

  • to have general oversight of the work of internal audit and review, with particular emphasis on promoting economy, efficiency and effectiveness, on value-for-money studies, and on risk assessment and control assurance;

  • to receive and consider reports from the Internal Review Service (IRS), together with management letters and other external audit material;

  • to advise the Accounting Officer in the exercise of his responsibilities;

  • to consider and recommend to the Accounting Officer the internal review programme;

  • to encourage best financial practice, use of resources and governance in the House administration; and

  • to report annually, the report to be published with the Commission's Annual Report.


5.  The Committee met four times during the financial year 2000-01. It has received regular reports from the IRS Director, who attended all its meetings. The Committee endorsed IRS's terms of reference and its audit programme for the year ending 31st October 2001.

6.  Paragraph 15.70 of the Braithwaite review suggested that the House should place a greater emphasis on value for money audit work. The Committee accordingly took a close interest in this area by monitoring the progress of an external review of the provision of legal services, and recommending a subject - procurement - for an IRS value for money study.

7.  More general matters, such as the changing focus of audit, and the preparation of Statements of Internal Control were discussed. The Committee welcomed ongoing work to adopt a risk management approach throughout the House service, which is recognised as NAO 'best practice'. Further work on this, including the identification of corporate risks, will continue throughout 2001-02, with the assistance of experts in the field.

8.  The Committee has established working links with the House's external auditor (the National Audit Office), and looks forward to developing these in the future. The Comptroller and Auditor General has attended a meeting, and gave members a briefing on the role and remit of Audit Committees. NAO representatives have spoken to the Committee about the NAO's future plans for audit in the House, and a series of further meetings is scheduled for 2001-02.

9.  The Committee is keeping a close eye on developments in audit, including the recent review of audit and accountability for central government by Lord Sharman of Redlynch. It will make recommendations to the Commission as to its future role and responsibilities as necessary.

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© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 17 July 2001