Magazine article Public Finance

Hodge Calls for an Empowered NAO to Increase Accountability

Magazine article Public Finance

Hodge Calls for an Empowered NAO to Increase Accountability

Article excerpt

The National Audit Office should be empowered to audit contracts government bodies enter into with private firms, the chairof the Public Accounts Committee has said.

In a wide-rangingspeech to the CIPFA Better Governance Forum, Margaret FHodge said the massive expansion of outsourcing across the public sector, and the growth in free schools and academies, was fragmenting traditional accountability structures.

She said this lack of clear accountability had made the PAC very dependent on whistleblowers to expose the abuse of public money.

Hodge suggested three ways in which scrutiny of public service contracts could be boosted. The first and simplest was gvingthe NAO the right to follow the public pound in that contract and audit it' she said.

The other two were requiring private firms to make their contracts 'very open' and extending Freedom of Information provisions to public service contracts.

'If this is the way our taxpayers' money is going to be used, we have to establish better structures of accountability,' said Hodge.

She went on to reflect on the le^cyof the abolition of the Audit Commission, which left the NAO as 'the only show in town' in terms of formal checks on government spending

'I feel nervous and uncomfortable about that,' Hodge said. …

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