Magazine article Public Finance

Watchdog Watch

Magazine article Public Finance

Watchdog Watch

Article excerpt

National Audit Office

The National Audit Office qualified the Whole of Government Accounts for the fourth successive year because of continuing issues with the quality and consistency of data.

Comptroller and auditor general Amyas Morse again expressed concern that bodies such as Network Rail and further education institutions continue to be excluded from the accounts, even though accounting standards require them to be included.

But he said that if the Treasury were successful in its plans to address the issues that have led him to qualify his opinion, he might be able to remove a number of qualifications in the next four years.

The latest set of accounts shows the in-year shortfall between income and expenditure decreased from £185bn to £179bn, largely owing to falls in the government's cost of borrowing and increases in revenue.

Overall net liability increased in 2012/13 by £283bn to £l,630bn.

Morse said more could be done to exploit the WGA's potential as a reporting mechanism.

At CIPFA, chief executive Rob Whiteman said the detailed information in the WGA needed to be used to manage public money effectively.

'CIPFA also hopes that the Treasury will start to lead the way in this by using WGA in the presentation of fiscal events such as the Budget and the Autumn Statement, including by reporting outturn against budget for the whole public sector, and publishing forward balance sheet forecasts.'

Meanwhile, the NAO said the Ministry of Defence's programme to cut the size of the army had left the force exposed to significant risks that could affect its ability to achieve its objectives.

Auditors said the decision to implement the Army 2020 programme, which reduced the size of the regular force by around 20,000 and increased the number of reserves by 11,000, was taken without any appropriate feasibility testing.

'The department and army must get a better understanding of significant risks to Army 2020,' said Morse.

Separately, the NAO warned the government that a lack of consistency in the funding of road maintenance for both the Highways Agency and local authorities was putting public value at risk. Unpredictable funding cuts made it difficult for authorities to plan their maintenance programmes effectively and increased costs in the long term.

Ofsted

Ofsted's review of 21 schools and academies in Birmingham revealed that some academies breached their funding agreements by failing to provide a 'broad and balanced' curriculum.

Inspectors visited the schools in March and April this year because of concerns about leadership and management and the effectiveness of safeguarding.

Following this exercise, Ofsted announced that five of the schools were being placed in special measures, with all falling down on both safeguarding and leadership and management measures.

In his advice note to Education Secretary Michael Gove, chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw also highlighted that some of the academies inspected were in breach of their funding agreements with the Education Funding Agency.

'Some of the academies inspected, for example, did not meet the requirement to provide a broad and balanced curriculum or to provide the appropriate balance in religious education,' Wilshaw said.

Ofsted was also critical of Birmingham City Council, which it said had failed to support a number of schools in their efforts to protect children from potential radicalisation and extremism. …

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