No change at National Savings

National Savings was expected to come under fire from the Public Accounts Committee yesterday for failing to improve financial accountability at the state-run savings institution.

Despite appointing a new finance director to take up the reins at the troubled organisation in March, National Savings was expected to get a rough ride at yesterday’s PAC meeting.

Committee clerk Ken Brown said before the hearing that the committee, led by David Davies, would be quizzing officials to gauge what, if any, advances it had made since a damning National Audit Office report was published last year.

National Savings manages over #63bn in investments on behalf of 30 million customers.

Among the criticisms raised by the NAO was a lack of trained accountants which resulted in a failure to produce accurate financial information.

Brown said before the hearing: ‘We will be looking at what changes have been made since the NAO document was published.’ National Savings chief executive Peter Bareau, director of operations Dan Monaghan and deputy director of finance John Davison are all expected to attend.

But newly appointed FD Richard Douglas, former National Health Service Executive deputy FD and CIPFA member, takes up his new position on 1 March and so was not expected to give evidence.

The agency would not comment on any specific points which it thought would be raised at the hearing, but confirmed that there were now 19 qualified accountants employed and another 19 in training.

Last year, it said it had 19 qualified staff with a further 22 in training.

It remained unclear whether the other main questions raised by NAO head Sir John Bourn had been properly dealt with.

Davies and other members of the committee were also expected to question the officials on National Savings’ precise liability to investors, the investigation of unreconciled discrepancies on monies owed between National Savings and its agents, appearance of unexplained balances on suspense accounts and the establishment of mechanisms to prove the existence of fraud.

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