THE head of the National Audit Office has reported the highest level of NAO financial savings to the tax payer, equivalent to £19 saved for every pound spent, despite further austerity placing an increasing burden on the department.
The NAO’s financial impacts for 2015/16 exceeded its own expectations. The NAO’s target for 2015 was £645m (ten times the forecast net outturn of £64.5m for 2015-16). The actual audited savings achieved for the calendar year totalled £1,208m.
The NAO has also increased its influence within government, having 82% of PAC recommendations accepted by government, many of which originated from the NAO.
In 2015/2016 it certified 368 accounts in 16 of the 17 major government departments, plus eight pension scheme resource accounts. It produced 65 value-for-money reports and 43 investigations tackling the issues most important to the government and the taxpayer.
The costs of the NAO’s audit and assurance work, which includes its financial audits, value-for-money studies, investigations, overseas work and direct support for Parliament, was less than budgeted by £1.6m (2%).
One of the main causes of the variance was the cost of its people. Against a planned complement of 825 people for the year, it employed an average of 810. Its ability to hold onto its staff post-qualification reduced, as market conditions for skilled accountants continued to be strong and its staff found packages that are more competitive in the private sector.
During this period it prioritised its statutory financial audit work, while being more selective and efficient in its discretionary investigations and value-for-money studies.
Commenting on the report, Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said that the past year has been one of “ongoing success”, but it has not been without its challenges.
“We have taken on more work and responsibility, while audits were delivered with fewer resources to tighter timescales without compromising the high standard we have always held ourselves to.
Morse claimed that further austerity “put pressure on government’s management capabilities”, which in turn placed an increasing burden on the NAO.
“Against this background, we have delivered a strong programme of work to support Parliament and achieved the highest level to date of financial savings for the taxpayer, of £1.21bn, equivalent to £19 saved for every pound spent, all while reducing our costs and achieving further efficiencies,” continued the NAO leader.
The publication of the NAO’s Annual Report and Accounts marks the 150th anniversary of the department.
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