The NAO, which has so far had only an indirect relationship with the Dome and its operating company the New Millennium Experience Company, has decided this morning to conduct a detailed financial inquiry into the operation of the dome, this week’s £29m grant and an earlier one of £60m.
The Value for Money report will be presented to parliament, in the form of the influential Commons Public Accounts Committee, after the summer recess.
The examination has been prompted by concerns expressed by members of the Millennium Commission, the funding body which gave the two grants.
A spokesman at the NAO told AccountancyAge.com: ‘As more and more information has come to light that officials at the Commisssion did have concerns about whether the £29m did reflect good value for money, we have decided that we were going to produce a report for parliament when they come back from the recess.
‘We are going to look at the operation of the Dome this year and we will also be looking at the grants of £60m and £29m.’
The NAO is the official auditor of the Commission and reports on the body’s accounts every year.
Up to now the NAO has resisted launching a full value for money inquiry into the Dome and the NMEC but the loan this week, and the concerns expressed publicly, have finally forced the watchdog’s hand.
Its decision will come as another blow to the government which has supported the Dome and operations. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott even made public statements of endorsement this week while standing in for Tony Blair during Prime Minister’s Question in parliament.
THE FINANCIAL MILLENNIUM INTERVIEW -Millennium man’s countdown