NAO criticises research centre

National Audit Office head Sir John Bourn has criticised a government research centre for failing to install its accounting systems successfully.

The Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils operates the Rutherford, Appleton and Daresbury laboratories, promoting scientific and engineering research.

Reporting to parliament, Sir John said the Financial Accounting and Management Information System (FAMIS) was due to be in place by 1 April 1997, and operational by June that year.

But cost overruns and delays caused the #544,000 contract to cost an extra #458,000. The money was spent on additional hardware, training, legal and audit fees and temporary staff.

About 500 overpayments to staff, totalling #270,000, had resulted from inadequate controls over manual payments made in 1997 to ease a backlog of payment processing.

The council also had to resort to a spreadsheet register to support the 1997/1998 accounts when a fixed-asset module failed to account correctly for the council’s large capital asset base.

Additionally, the council was unable to reconcile its general ledger to its bank statements for 1997/1998.

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