HC Deb 20 December 1999 vol 341 cc524-6
33. Mr. David Rendel (Newbury)

What increase in spending will be necessary to accommodate extra duties placed on the National Audit Office by the Government Resources and Accounts Bill. [101989]

Mr. Robert Sheldon (Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission)

The Public Accounts Commission has taken account of the growing work load of the National Audit Office, and we have recommended additional funding. That is partly as a result of the introduction of resource accounting as set out in the Government Resources and Accounts Bill. At the commission's meeting on 2 December to consider the NAO's new estimate, it approved an additional £1.3 million for 2000–01.

The other new duty placed on the Comptroller and Auditor General by the Bill is to audit and account to the whole of government. As that will not come into force until 2005, it is too early to say what the resource implications will be. Both the Public Accounts Commission and the Public Accounts Committee are seriously concerned about the Government Resources and Accounts Bill, which does not empower the CAG to scrutinise as full a range of public spending bodies as CAGs have done over the past 130 years. Representations have been made and are continuing.

Mr. Rendel

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that excellent reply, with which I fully concur. Has he made an estimate of what extra spending would be necessary if the National Audit Office were to audit all spending of taxpayers' money? I believe that the sum would be quite small.

Mr. Sheldon

Indeed it would be. If the NAO were to audit every single aspect of government spending through all the various bodies concerned which are not audited by the CAG at present, it would cost no more than about £1 million. The important point is that the Bill could be improved in a number of ways. It could grant to Parliament's auditors the same rights of access to public spending that Departments grant themselves. The Bill should replace the present illogical arrangements and make the CAG the auditor of all non-departmental public bodies. The CAG should audit publicly owned companies and the new departmental performance measures.