Sir John said he had been forced to qualify as he had been ‘unable to obtain all the information and explanations’ he felt he needed to given the accounts a clean bill of health. However, we were told little more.
Even the Commons Public Accounts Committee was kept in the dark about the report involving GCHQ – members were not even shown the statements on a confidential basis. It was merely ‘seen’ by chairman Edward Leigh under ‘normal arrangements’.
The sensitivity of such accounts is not at issue. Neither would anyone suggest full disclosure is an option. But is this degree of secrecy necessary?
It doesn’t reflect well on the security services – or the NAO – when negotiations about the accuracy of the agencies’ accounts are so shrouded in secrecy.