Audit overlap to be avoided

It has emerged that responses to the consultation exercise on the Audit Commission’s future direction have urged the Commission to avoid overlapping audit and inspection services from different agencies.

Speaking at a best value conference in London, Commission controller Andrew Foster said the exercise was one of the first opportunities the Commission has had to prepare its ideas, including those on best value.

Although the Commission is not due to publish the full results of the consultation exercise until the beginning of next year, Foster told Accountancy Age he was encouraged by the comments submitted from the public sector, particularly those regarding the Commission’s audit functions.

‘There are three main conclusions to be drawn,’ he said. ‘First, there is a strong level of support for our audit regime. Second, there is strong support for information and comparison, with people saying there was a major role for us to show how competitive they were. Third, people are saying we should avoid duplication of audit and inspection from different agencies.’

The responses will be regarded as positive, particularly as the Commission is keen to reaffirm audit as underpinning regularity in public services and having a central role in the delivery of the government’s best value policy.

In September, when the consultation document was launched, Foster said the traditional audit role of ensuring probity and proper governance would be given a sharp focus and the ‘lion’s share’ of the Commission’s and auditors’ resources. This represents 70% of the total audit effort.

‘Far more critical is the chance that audit and inspection have,’ added Foster. ‘It is about reinforcing local achievement. We have the chance of supporting local authorities while they go through their own processes.’

The Audit Commission was due to decide on the national performance indicators for the public sector this week but will not announce its decision until next spring. Associate director of audit support Amanda Ariss forecast ‘some big changes’.

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