PracticeAuditWhitehall struggles with resource accounts

Whitehall struggles with resource accounts

Treasury mandarins have warned up to nine government departments' 2001/02 accounts may be qualified this year because they are still struggling with the three-year-old change from cash to resource accounting.

Link: Resource accounting to boost Whitehall

They include two of the largest Whitehall departments – the Home Office and the Department of Food and Rural Affairs, which superseded the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

It follows the qualification of 30 departments’ accounts in a dry run during the changeover in 1998/99, 12 in 1999/2000 and nine in 2001/02.

A Treasury report admitted that ‘further progress needs to be made’ since the nine were qualified last year.

Some ‘continue to face significant challenges to ensure that residual problems are resolved’ and ‘have flagged the need to work beyond the 2001/02 accounts’ making it ‘unlikely that all issues will have been fully resolved’.

The Treasury claimed, however, that the remaining issues do not compromise accountability to parliament, which they said has been enhanced by the move to a resource basis and ‘while some departmental accounts may continue to be qualified, these qualifications do not cover all aspects of their expenditure, only specified parts or aspects of departmental operations’.

The Home Office and DEFRA are ‘in consultation’ with the NAO over ‘outstanding issues’.

The Treasury has warned departments that fail to meet tough deadlines for submitting accounts may be required to report to the comptroller and auditor general or the Public Accounts Committee on their failure.

And, following concerns expressed by the PAC over the availability of sufficiently skilled staff, the Treasury said they have devised a training package to be used internally by departments and was helping to disseminate best practice.

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