Extended powers for spending watchdogs

The idea comes from the Commons Treasury select committee in its report on the chancellor’s comprehensive spending review.

The report says the NAO and Audit Commission should be checking performance rather than leave all assessment to the Treasury.

‘We consider this essential to the interests of transparency and accountability to the taxpayer,’ the committee said.

Government departments are already audited by the NAO while the Audit Commission has responsibility for local government.

The Commission is already dealing with a major extension of its remit with the introduction of Best Value, while the NAO has been monitoring Whitehall’s transition from cash to resource accounting.

The powers of the NAO are already subject to controversy. Parliamentarians from the Commons Public Account Committee and members of the House of Lords have been campaigning hard to see its powers extended so that it might have more automatic rights to audit public money.

Last month, reported how the Treasury was facing constitutional ping-pong over demands to extend the remit of the comptroller and auditor general Sir John Bourn to all government business. The government is keen to stop Sir John from having unrestricted access to information on all quangos and other non-departmental government bodies.

Government keen to restrict Bourn’s powers

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