NAO’s reputation defended

A story in The Guardian suggesting that the National Audit Office hampered a
police inquiry into the £20bn Al-Yamamah arms deal with Saudi Arabia, has been
slammed by the assistant auditor general.

The 1992 report by the audit watchdog in regard to the 1985 arms deal is the
only report not to yet made public by the NAO.

In a letter to The Guardian, Gabrielle Cohen, John Bourn’s deputy,
said story published by the newspaper on 25 July was ‘an unacceptable slur on
the reputation of John Bourn and the National Audit Office to suggest that we
would hamper a police inquiry’.

‘We are cooperating fully with the Serious Fraud Office inquiries into
allegations about the al-Yamamah deal,’ Cohen said.

She added: ‘The Guardian was told by us that the NAO has no
authority to release the 1992 report on the deal as it is privileged – a point
made clearly in previous public statements by the chairman of the public
accounts committee.’

Cohen said the report could only be released following a resolution of the
House of Commons.

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