Arts council admits failures over financial controls

The rare confession by a public body came in a Treasuryresponse to a Public Accounts Committee report expressingoutrage over the handling of the Royal Court Theatre, RoyalAcademy of Dramatic Art and Victoria Hall and Regent Theatreprojects.

The committee complained it was unsatisfactory that the Arts Councilfailed to take action sooner to replace a Business Assessmentand Planning Team with a more robust Business Services Unit.

The Treasury response said the Department for Culture and theArts Council agreed with MP ‘that it is essential that the ArtsCouncil have appropriate financial and project managementexpertise.’

It claimed it was already undertaking reforms when thecommittee reported but admitted: ‘The Department and the ArtsCouncil accept that it is unsatisfactory that action was nottaken sooner to strengthen the business monitoring function.’

It also admitted earlier action to strengthen financial skills’might’ have helped reduce time and cost over-runs.

Replying to another PAC report complaining at the scale of fraudin the NHS, the Treasury said the NHS is stepping up actionagainst fraud.

It said the NHS Executive acknowledged that the past level ofdetected fraud was so low it was no realistic measure of theamount being lost.

Eight new counter fraud operational services teams have been setup to cover each region, with a central team with a remit forpro-active work and large scale fraud investigations and twocovering prescription and dental frauds.

Health authorities and trusts are required to send staff forspecial anti-fraud training at a special centre.

And directions spelling out roles and responsibilities have beenissued by Secretary of State Alan Milburn.

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