Four more sets of government accounts qualified

NAO COMPTROLLER and auditor general Amyas Morse has qualified the accounts for four more government bodies days after qualifying the accounts of the Ministry of Defence.

He raised significant faults involving the accounts of: the Department for Work and Pensions; the Skills Funding Agency; the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and; the Rural Payments Agency.

Morse said that the DWP, whose accounts have been qualified since 1988-89, blamed the material level of fraud and error on state benefits of an estimated £3.3bn.

The NAO report said that plans to introduce a Universal Credit to replace some existing benefits is an opportunity for improvement.

Morse said: “No system to administer benefits can ever be perfect but I believe that there is scope for the department to reduce fraud and error levels significantly.”

He criticised the Skills Funding Agency for failing to consolidate further education colleges’ results in its accounts, which in his opinion was required to comply with the International Financial Reporting Standards.

The SFA considered this would not be cost effective.

Morse’s qualification of Defra’s and the RAP’s accounts was on the grounds of regularity following penalties totalling £175m from the European Commission resulting from failings involving subsidy payments to farmers between 2007 and 2009 and likely further penalties totaling £84m expected for last year.

He also criticised the agency’s failure to make an accurate assessment of the value of over and under-payments since the Single Payment Scheme began.

Earlier, Morse qualified the MoD’s accounts for the fifth time running for inadequate evidence to account for £5.3bn of equipment, and for failing to follow international accounting requirements for leases.

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