NAO chief to face MPs vote

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has confirmed the next permanent head of the
National Audit Office will be subject to pre-appointment scrutiny in the House
of Commons.

He made the announcement as he formally proposed a commons motion requesting
the Queen to appoint deputy NAO chief Tim Burr to replace comptroller and
auditor general Sir John Bourn on his retirement at the end of this month after
20 years in office.

The motion was passed without opposition. It is the only key public
appointment which MPs can currently actually veto, but relevant committees will
in future hold pre-appointment hearings on such posts as the chair of the Audit
Commission and head of the FSA – though there is a question mark as to whether
the process will cover the next Governor of the Bank of England.

Brown thanked Sir John for his ‘courteous’ dealings with MPs and his work
scrutinizing government spending and supporting the commons Public Accounts
Committee which is the body most likely to ‘interview’ Burr’s successor.

He said Burr is ’eminently qualified’. Sir John’s departure follows
controversy over expenditure of over £300,000 on travel. He was formally cleared
of impropriety by the Public Accounts Commission.

Public Accounts Commission chairman Alan Williams said he had just received a
report on the governance of the NAO which would be considered by the commission
next month.

He and Public Accounts Committee chairman Edward Leigh urged future C&
AGs should serve a fixed term.

Tory spokesman David Gauke was concerned Sir John had been ‘hounded’ out of

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