Appendix 2: National Audit Office Response |
Letter to the Chairman of the Liaison Committee
from the Comptroller and Auditor General, 27 June 2008
I thought it might be helpful, following the publication
of the Liaison Committee's report, Parliament and Government Finance:
Recreating Financial Scrutiny, to set out our position on those
conclusions and recommendations that relate to the National Audit
The Alignment Project
The Treasury's Alignment Project seeks to secure
consistency between spending plans, estimates and accounts. We
agree with the Committee's assessment of the potential significance
of the project in improving both financial scrutiny and financial
management in departments. We support the aims of the project
and are, as the Committee has noted, represented on the project's
NAO support to select committees other than PAC
We welcome the Committee's support for the assistance
we provide to select committees other than PAC and, like the Committee,
we are also keen to see this work develop further.
In our memorandum to the Liaison Committee, published
with its report on the work of committees in 2007,
we set out details of NAO support during the year. The support
took a number of forms ranging from the provision of formal evidence
for committees, including evidence-gathering and research in response
to a committee's requests, to informal oral and written briefings
and the secondment of staff with particular expertise in the area
covered by a committee. In 2007 the NAO provided support of this
kind to 11 Commons select committees.
As part of our programme of work aimed at strengthening
financial scrutiny, the NAO produced formal briefings for three
committees on the performance of their respective departments
in 2006-07. Designed to assist the committees in the examination
of their department's expenditure and administration, the briefings
were based on material in Departmental Annual Reports and, where
appropriate, on issues that had arisen from the NAO's mainstream
value for money and wider work, for example on regulation and
performance system validation, and the action departments had
taken in response. Following positive feedback from the committees
concerned, the NAO has allocated further resources to this area
to increase the number of performance briefings it produces for
departmental select committees in future years.
Publication of NAO Management Letters
The report recommends that departments publish the
NAO's management letters, which convey detailed audit findings
to those responsible for managing expenditure in Departments.
We will discuss this recommendation with the Treasury. We consider
that publication would tend to reduce the frankness of the letters,
however, while doing little to promote public understanding since
their content is at a detailed and technical level.
Training for Members
The Committee notes that one way of increasing Members'
capacity for financial scrutiny would be to make more training
available for them, and notes that the NAO could provide training
for more specialised areas such as the Private Finance Initiative.
We would be happy to assist in this respect.
1 Liaison Committee, Third Report of Session 2007-08,
The work of committees in 2007, HC 427 Back