Whitehall – Cabinet Office bookkeeping under fire

The Cabinet Office has been slammed by the Commons Public Accounts Committee for sloppy bookkeeping and delaying tactics in producing financial statements, writes Ben Griffiths.

MPs on the committee voiced the criticisms in a report released yesterday examining the sale of Chessington Computer Centre, Recruitment and Assessment Services and the Occupational Health and Safety Agency – government agencies sold off to the private sector.

The report follows years of criticism from MPs angry that the 1996 sales have still not been accounted for.

Committee chairman David Davis said the dates set in statute for preparing and auditing accounts were not ‘vague targets’ but ‘key mechanisms for ensuring parliamentary accountability.

‘In these cases the sloppy bookkeeping and dilatory approach to producing financial statements mean that some two years after the sale it is still impossible to say what price will finally be paid for the agencies,’ Davis said.

Accounts are still overdue for Chessington Computer Centre and the Operational Health and Safety Agency.

The National Audit Office berated the sale following an investigation as part of its financial audit role. ‘As a minimum any statutory deadline should be met,’ the NAO said.

KPMG and Price Waterhouse were also criticised for providing poor advice when Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary Sir Peter Mountfield was roasted by the PAC in February over the delays.

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