Whitehall finds it hard to audit without error

7 Dec 00
Up to 15 government departments' will publish accounts containing errors when they are made public early in the New Year.

08 December 2000

Early indications show that many big spending ministries, such as defence and the Department of Health, could be among those whose accounts for 1999/2000 will be qualified.

The audit results for all 53 government departments are expected to be published in January. Although there is official concern that the number of qualified accounts is still too high, the number of departments whose accounts contain errors shows a decline from the previous year's figures. For 1998/99 accounts, 25 departments had their accounts qualified.

Included in this list were the Home Office, the Treasury, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Lord Chancellor's Department, as well as defence.

The Treasury, which sets accounting rules for all departments, hopes that this downward trend will continue. It has predicted that by 2001/02 up to eight departments will have qualified accounts, a figure it is confident will continue to fall.

Currently, all departments are changing the way government funds are audited. As well as using cash accounting rules, established more than 150 years ago, departments are also dry-running resource accounting techniques. By 2002 all departments will have switched to resource accounting.

Although the move has been broadly welcomed, the House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee warned in August that this may lead to further problems because departments do not have enough qualified staff with the 'high degree of technical skills' needed for resource accounting.


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