Commons authorities defend expenses audit qualification

HOUSE OF COMMONS authorities have defended themselves against comptroller and auditor general Amyas Morse’s decision to qualify their accounts for 2009-10 because they were unable to provide sufficient evidence in support of MPs’ expenses totaling nearly £14m.

This included £800,000 which was unsupported despite a major attempt to obtain evidence retrospectively and £1.8m where evidence was not available for audit because the MPs concerned are under investigation by the police.

The NAO report said that in addition the evidence supporting £11.3m of costs reimbursed to MPs was not sufficient to confirm they had been incurred for Parliamentary purposes despite being within rules governing the payment of expenses.

The Commons had invited the NAO to conduct a “full scope audit” of the accounts for the final year before responsibility for expenses was passed to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Committee.
Some documentation had either been mislaid by the authorities or not provided by the MP.

The Commons Members Estimates Committee said Morse had found their accounts were “a true and fair view” and in accordance with accounting standards but the committee said they had been qualified on “regularity” grounds not because payments were “improper” but for lack of evidence of propriety of 1% of total payments.

Liberal Democrat MP John Thurso said: “We recognise that there were clearly some areas where the checks and balances were not adequate but these issues have already been identified.”

This was the first audit in which the NAO was asked to look beyond the MPs’ signatures asserting the regularity of their claims.

The Commons Members Resource Accounts show a total operating cost of £166.9m. In addition to including £98.1m MPs’ expenses, the financial statements also report £47.4m MPs’ salaries, £12.6m pensions contributions and a £226m deficit on their contributory pension fund.

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