Forward-looking agent for change

Our recent work on health includes reviews of clinical negligence, NHS waiting lists and nurse training. On education we are examining ways to improve student retention and achievement. On the environment we have looked at the effectiveness of inland flood defences. These are all topics that matter to taxpayers.

We also deal with aspects of public spending which may be less visible, but where the demand for value is just as great. Our work on complex defence equipment procurements is a case in point, or the value achieved when public assets such as the UK gold reserves were sold.

Our work has led to significant improvements in the quality of private finance deals and we are at the forefront in examining public/private partnership arrangements. Our audit of the regulators examines how effectively they are protecting the interests of rail passengers or consumers of water and electricity.

Parliament uses our reports to hold those responsible for spending public money to account for their performance. But we do not stop there.

We are forward-looking agents for change, recommending how things can be done better and helping to disseminate good practice. The £1.4bn saved by our work in the past three years is just the tip of the iceberg as improvements flow through the system.

In criticising the form of our accounts, Sir Peter may have overlooked the fact that we currently have a statutory duty to present our accounts on a cash basis.

This will change next year when our annual report will include our resource account. More importantly the accountancy staff who represent our main professional workforce have played a vital part in the implementation of resource accounts right across Whitehall departments.

In summary, Sir Peter’s criticisms are wide of the mark. Our work leads to service improvements for the citizen and to better value from public spending. We are successfully combining our role in the accountability process with our position as a real driver for beneficial change.

  • Gabrielle Cohenis director of communications at the National Audit Office


NAO has more bark than bite

Related reading