PracticePeople In PracticeLords move to extend powers of Auditor General

Lords move to extend powers of Auditor General

Senior government ministers are urgently considering whether to risk tryingto reverse a Lords defeat extending the powers of theComptroller and Auditor General.

It follows a victory by Tory, Liberal Democrat and crossbenchpeers over a key amendment to the Government Resources andAccounts Bill.

The Lords voted by 124 to 122 in favour of extending Sir JohnBourn’s access as of right to any body to which a governmentdepartment or quango has or can obtain access.

Earlier the government defeated a combined opposition attempt toextend the remit of the National Audit Office to auditing allnon-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) by 129 votes to 119.

Government chief whip Lord Haringey denounced the proposal as’irrational and extreme’ because it would make the C&AG theauditor of publicly-owned companies which he is prohibited byother legislation from auditing.

Lord Freeman, a Tory accountant, said 90 major NDPBs spent £12bn and that it was vital to extend the information aboutthem available via the Public Accounts Committee to Parliament.

The combined opposition victory leaves the government with thedecision whether to use their Commons majority restore the C&AGto the current position under which he has to negotiate throughresponsible Government departments for access to a large numberof other quangos – and ask the Lords to agree.

Lord Haringey accused the Tories of seeking to extend theNational Audit Act ‘by stealth’ to give the C&AG a’sweeping’ new power of general access.

Tory spokesman Viscount Bridgeman said present arrangementswaste the C&G’s time negotiating access to data required toassure Parliament money has been properly and efficiently spent.

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