NAO housing accounts row deepens

A row over the National Audit Office’s bid to scrutinise housing association accounts deepened after claims the job would be given to the Audit Commission were dismissed.

James Tickell, assistant chief executive of the National Housing Federation (NHF), called the claims ‘highly speculative and misleading’.

‘There has been speculation the commission’s value-for-money scheme will overlap with its Best Value agenda but this is not the case. The commission is only doing one-off studies. Best Value would fall to the Housing Corporation,’ said Tickell.

The NAO has pressed for greater scrutiny into the associations, technically known as registered social landlords (RSLs), arguing they should be able to check to ensure the z1.8bn of public money received by RSLs is managed properly. It objected to the fact it has access to some non-governmental bodies but not the national Housing Corporation.

The NHF reacted with fury to the NAO’s proposals, calling them ‘simply a bit of empire building’.

‘The NAO is simply trying to tread on the toes of the national Housing Corporation by implying there is an accountability issue. The Treasury rejected proposals for the NAO’s interference since the Nolan Committee. RSLs are comprehensively represented by the Housing Corporation and they are already totally regulated,’ added Tickell.

The Audit Commission also denied the claims. ‘As far as I know, we are only involved with the value-for-money scheme and that’s all,’ said a commission spokesperson.

The NAO said it would continue to press for access to all RSL accounts.

‘All we want is the right to look at housing associations’ books if and when we wish to do so,’ said an NAO spokesperson.

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