We welcome the continuing progress HM Treasury is making in producing the Whole of Government Accounts (WGA). The 2012-13 WGA was published five weeks earlier than last year and the Treasury now has plans in place to produce the accounts even earlier in future years. The Treasury also aims to allow the Comptroller and Auditor General to remove most of his qualifications on the audit opinion. This is the fourth WGA to be published and it remains the most comprehensive picture of the government's income, expenditures, assets and liabilities that is available.
Parliament lacks real visibility over the government's delivery of its deficit reduction measures under the current Spending Review. The government has currently delivered only half of its planned measures to balance public sector income and expenditure (fiscal consolidation measures). The experience in the delivery of consolidation measures to date, where for example the planned increases in tax revenues have not been realised, also show that the government will face a significant challenge in delivering the next phase of the consolidation. In assessing the government's performance in its management of public finances, the WGA is now an essential tool in supporting Parliamentary accountability.
The Treasury has been slow in ensuring that all parts of the public sector comply with the government's expectations on pay restraint, particularly in the setting the pay of senior staff. We welcome the steps the Treasury has taken to ensure that "off payroll" arrangements within central government are made more transparent and that the Treasury is sanctioning government bodies when they fail to comply with the guidance. However, the Treasury now needs to do more in tackling "off payroll" arrangements within the wider public sector and making these arrangements equally transparent as those within central government.