NAO hits five-year low on report into PFI deal

Criticism has been levelled at the National Audit Office over its report on
the refinancing of the controversial Norwich and Norfolk public finance
initiative, following an independent review of the work.

Documents seen by Accountancy Age from Oxford University Consulting,
into the NAO’s value for money study on the PFI refinancing deal, saw the
government body heavily criticised over the report’s clarity.

The report was slammed over its ‘lack of clear and ordered contextual
background information’, ‘the absence of primary textual analysis’ and for not
being explicit enough ‘in its evaluations of arguments provided by other
parties’. This, it argued, made the report ‘harder to interpret’ and ‘difficult
to read’.

On a scale of one to five over seven categories, with one being the lowest
and five the highest, the report received an average mark of just two.

‘Only the title gives an indication of the scope of the report,’ commented
the review while adding that ‘the report does not contain any methodological
explanation, or explicit evaluative criteria’.

Labour MP for Hemsworth Jon Trickett said that the review had led him ‘to the
conclusion that the NAO report was not totally forthcoming’.

The report stands out as it is the only one to receive an average score of
two or less in the last five years. So far this year, 60% of the NAO’s value for
money reports have averaged a score of four or more.

Responding to the criticism, an NAO spokeswoman said that the report was
shorter and more narrowly focused than normal as it was a response to queries
raised by Norma Lamb MP.

‘We wanted to get the report out quickly because of the issues it raised
about the additional risks the public sector was taking on when negotiating
refinancing,’ she added.

The Norfolk and Norwich PFI deal has already been blasted by MPs after it was
revealed that shareholders at Octagon, the private sector consortium that built
and maintains the hospital, received a 60% rate of return. The low-scoring
report produced by the NAO will further add to the confusion surrounding the

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