HC Deb 22 November 2001 vol 375 cc402-3W
Mr. Todd

To ask the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission what resources of the NAO are directed to the follow-up of qualifications to(a) agency and (b) departmental accounts; and if he will make a statement. [15246]

Mr. Alan Williams

It is the responsibility of the management of the Department or agency whose accounts have been qualified to take the necessary corrective action. The NAO will provide appropriate advice and assistance to support the body in this regard. The nature of the support and the resources directed will depend on the underlying reason for qualification in each case. For example, the Comptroller and Auditor General qualified his audit opinion on the Child Support Agency's Client Funds Account for 2000–01 for the seventh consecutive year in the light of high error rates in maintenance assessments made by the agency. The National Audit Office plans to spend some £120,000 on its audit of the 2001–02 account. The examination will check a sample of maintenance assessments to estimate the effect of any errors on outstanding maintenance balances.

The National Audit Office will also monitor the agency's progress towards its target of implementing the new assessment system from April 2002. This system of child support was introduced by legislation in 2000 and is aimed at simplifying the rules for maintenance assessments. This is closely linked with modernisation of the Agency's operational processes and the introduction of a new computer system. This is intended to promote increased accuracy in maintenance awards and improved payment compliance. In evaluating progress the National Audit Office will assess the evidence from its own audit work, and a range of other sources including reviews by the internal audit service of the Department for Work and Pensions. The Comptroller and Auditor General will report his findings with the 2001–02 account.