PracticeConsultingBenefits Agency accounts fail to reach target accuracy rate.

Benefits Agency accounts fail to reach target accuracy rate.

The National Audit Office has qualified its audit opinion on the Benefit Agency’s accounts for the eleventh time in a row. NAO chief Sir John Bourn’s action over the 1998-99 appropriation accounts follows hard on the heels of a public accounts committee’s findings on his reports on the accounts for 1997-98 and earlier years involving a total of £2bn in ‘gross miscalculation’ of income support and job seekers’ benefits. He said there had been ‘some improvement’ in accuracy in volume terms of both allowances, but identified a further increase in the gross level of error to £882m, with wide variations in different regions of the UK. East London and Anglia, Chilterns and South London areas failed to reach 80% of accuracy, blaming difficulties recruiting and keeping quality staff and the increased complexity of assessments. Only East Scotland exceeded the target rate of 87% for accuracy. Sir John said he did not under-estimate the scale of the agency’s task in tackling fraud and error, but ‘the levels of both are unacceptably high’.

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