Denial over NAO report ‘checks’.

The government has denied claims that senior officials and ministers can interfere with the preparation of National Audit Office reports, write our parliamentary staff.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey, the government’s chief whip in the House of Lords, insisted that a ‘long-standing convention’ requires that the facts in a report are agreed between comptroller and auditor general and the accounting officer of the department concerned to prevent the Public Accounts Committee judging between them.

He explained: ‘Where such differences are not capable of resolution in discussion, they are explained in the report with the reasons for the differences of opinion clearly stated.’

McIntosh said: ‘The conclusions and recommendations of the report are, however, for the C & AG.’ Lord Bruce of Donington, an accountant, said that in practice the dividing line between fact and opinion was obscure.

He said: ‘The public are entitled to complete confidence in the NAO and it is desirable in the public interest, never mind tradition, that nobody should interfere with the report which the C & AG seeks to make on his own initiative.’

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