Supplementary Memorandum submitted by
the Northern Ireland Office
NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE RESOURCE ACCOUNTS
Following achievement of Trigger Point 3 for
the 1998-99 dry run resource accounts the NIO received an accounts
direction from HM Treasury in July 2000 requiring the Department
to prepare formal resource accounts for 1999-2000, to submit the
accounts to the Comptroller and Auditor General by 30 November
2000 and to lay the audited accounts before Parliament by 31 January
2001. The Department failed to meet the submission date although
it was in a position to do so shortly after the due date. However
it became clear just before Christmas last, after discussion with
the auditors, that the NIO, like several other departments, was
unlikely to be able to lay unqualified resource accounts for 1999-2000
before Parliament by 31 January 2001.
The reasons were threefold. First, a full review
of capitalisation policy had to be carried out following the identification
of inconsistencies in the 1998-99 dry run account. This was a
one-off exercise which will not need to be repeated. Secondly,
considerable difficulty was encountered in extracting accurate
accruals data quickly from the NIO's systems. These deficiencies,
which were of less import in the dry run are now being addressed
as part of a review of the Department's accountancy function.
Thirdly, the absence of key members of staff with the necessary
accountancy skills during this period was badly felt. The availability
of staff with the right skills is another issue being addressed
in the review.
Since accounts which attract a qualified certificate
or a disclaimer would not meet the objectives of resource accounting
or Parliament's expectations as reflected in the report of the
Public Accounts Committee the Accounting Officer decided to seek
from the Treasury a dispensation from the accounts direction.
This was granted on 30 January. A new timetable was applied which
required the NIO to submit signed resource accounts for 1999-2000
to the C&AG by 31 January 2001this requirement was
metthe C&AG to deliver to the Treasury the certified
NIO accounts by 15 March 2001 and the Treasury to place the NIO's
accounts before the House of Commons by 31 March 2001.
16 February 2001