Our government's accounting practices would be totally unacceptable in the private sector. We've blogged many times about their Enron-style treatment of debt, but you'd think they could at least keep track of the pound coins actually running through their fingers.
Sadly, they can't always even do that, as we're reminded in today's National Audit Office report. In their official audit scorecard for 2004-05, the NAO pick out some high...er, lowlights:
- "The Department for Work and Pensions account was subject to a qualification on three separate grounds: the substantial level of estimated losses and fraud in benefit payments; material inconsistencies over the completeness, existence and accuracy of amounts recorded in the accounts for benefit overpayment balances and a significant limitation in the audit evidence; and finally, that in one area the department had expended more resources than had been authorised by Parliament." Which is pretty dire. Although apparently not dire enough for Alistair Darling to resign, as he would have to do in the private sector.
- "The Home Office account was subject to a ‘disclaimer of opinion’...The Home Office had not maintained complete financial books and records and as a result was unable to deliver its accounts for audit by the statutory timetable. Because of the fundamental nature of the problems encountered, [the auditor] could not reach an opinion on the truth and fairness of the Home Office’s accounts." Which is pretty dire. Although apparently not dire enough for Charles Clark to resign, as he would have to do in the private sector.
- "The Social Fund accounts in respect of both 2003-04 and 2004-05 were qualified during the period...as a result of the Department for Work and Pensions being unable to provide adequate supporting evidence to support a number of benefit awards to members of the public." A. Darling remains in post.
- "The Child Support Agency’s Client Accounts for 2004-05 were qualified as a result of material errors identified in both the amounts due and the amounts received. This was largely due to combinations of errors made in 2004-05 and earlier years, including errors in the underlying maintenance assessments." A. Darling remains in post.
Actually I can't bear to detail any of the others.
Mr Darling is responsible for spending about £130bn of public money every year. It's said by some that he'll become Chancellor when Gordo moves next door.
We have been warned.
Update: Due to another of those neural flashovers, when I said A Darling, I did of course mean J Hutton. Who in fairness has only recently taken over from Blunkers. Who in fairness only took over from A Johnson last May. But since the DWP is an incurable disaster, Hutton should resign anyway.