What to do if you want to complain about the work of the National Audit Office.

We value your comments and feedback

The NAO aims to carry out its work to the highest professional standards and to deliver an efficient and effective public audit service which represents best value for money. We are committed to continual improvement. This includes handling complaints carefully in an open and courteous way by investigating the matters raised thoroughly and replying as quickly as possible.

The NAO has a three stage complaints process. We will do all we can to resolve your complaint at the first stage, but if you are not satisfied with our response or you are unhappy with the way we have handled your complaint, you can ask for your complaint to be reviewed. How to complain and details of our procedure are set out below along with how you can expect us to handle your complaint.

The role of the National Audit Office

The National Audit Office scrutinises public spending on behalf of Parliament.

Our audit of central government has two main aims. By reporting the results of our audits to Parliament, we hold government departments and bodies to account for the way they use public money, thereby safeguarding the interests of taxpayers. In addition, our work aims to help public service managers improve performance and service delivery.

The head of the NAO, the Comptroller and Auditor General, Gareth Davies, is an Officer of the House of Commons. Both he and his staff at the NAO (around 900) are totally independent of government. We are not civil servants and do not report to any Minister.

There are four main acts of Parliament from which the Comptroller and Auditor General and the NAO derive their authority. These are the Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000; National Audit Act 1983; Exchequer and Audit Departments Act 1921; and the Exchequer and Audit Departments Act 1866.

The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 abolished the Audit Commission and established a new framework for local public audit based on local appointment of auditors. The new local audit framework involves several different entities each of which has a particular role – for example, the C&AG has a responsibility to prepare the Code of Audit Practice and a power to issue guidance to auditors.

If you want to make a complaint about your local authority or to find out more about local audit arrangements, see our Code of Audit Practice pages for further details.

The Office for National Statistics is responsible for publishing statistical information about the UK.

How to complain about us

What do we consider to be a complaint?

Any expression of dissatisfaction about the actions or inactions by the NAO, or its staff, affecting one or more members of the public or employee of a body audited by the NAO will be considered by our complaints procedure.

Who can complain?

Anyone who comes into contact with the NAO and is unhappy or dissatisfied can complain. For example, you could be a member of the public or an employee of a body audited by the NAO.

Who do I complain to?

There are two ways by which you can complain. You can:

  • write to the Correspondence team, 157-197 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9SP; or
  • e-mail us at complaints@nao.org.uk

Is there a time limit for complaining?

We will do all we can to look into your complaint. In order to ensure that complaints are dealt with properly, we will not usually accept complaints that are made more than 12 months after the event being complained about or being brought to your attention.

Are there any types of complaint that this procedure cannot consider under this process?

If you wish to comment on the performance or behaviour of an organisation audited by the NAO, you should raise it with that organisation, using its own complaints procedure. Further information about making a complaint against government and public bodies can be found at www.gov.uk.

Complaints that the NAO has failed to meet its obligations to disclose information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and to deal with requests in accordance with statutory procedure are subject to a distinct formal process. If your complaint relates to Freedom of Information, please write to The National Audit Office Freedom of Information Team, 157-197 Buckingham Palace Road, Victoria, London, SW1W 9SP.

If a complaint is vexatious and/or repetitious, we may bring the communication to a close. We define vexatious as: a complaint instituted without sufficient grounds and serving only to cause annoyance to the receiver of the complaint; an oppressive complaint (with unjust severity); or otherwise an abuse of the procedures for dealing with complaints or conduct matters.

We define repetitious as: a complaint that is substantially the same as a previous complaint (whether made by or on behalf of the same or a different complainant); contains no fresh allegations which significantly affect the account of the previous complaint; or no fresh evidence, being evidence which was not reasonably available at the time the previous complaint was made, is tendered in support of it.

What happens to my complaint?

Once you have made a complaint to the Office in writing, we aim to send you an acknowledgement within five working days of receipt. That acknowledgement will provide an indication as to who will be responsible for responding to you and when you can expect to receive a reply. Unless we consider there to be exceptional circumstances that make it inappropriate, the original Director involved in the correspondence or case will consider the Stage 1 complaint. If we cannot investigate your complaint, we will write to you explaining why. If possible, we will suggest another organisation that may be able to help you if we cannot.

We will give serious consideration to the issues you raise. Where we identify mistakes in our approach we will acknowledge those and this may include providing an apology, setting out details of other steps we think are necessary in the circumstances, and explaining what we will do to prevent the problem occurring again.

We expect to respond to the majority of complaints within 20 working days of the complaint arriving with us. The time taken to respond will vary depending on the complexity of the complaint.

If we are unable to respond within 20 working days because, for example, the matters you raise require more detailed investigation, we will let you know.

What happens if I disagree with the outcome, or how my complaint was handled?

We will make every effort to satisfactorily resolve your complaint in the first instance. However, if you are not satisfied by our response or by the way that your complaint was handled, you should contact the Correspondence team (contact details below). The Correspondence team will arrange for the case to be reconsidered by a member of staff who was not previously involved in handling your complaint. This stage will involve a detailed review of the handling of your complaint and associated papers. The outcome of this review will be communicated to you in writing.

What can I do if I am still unsatisfied with the way my complaint has been handled?

If you are unsatisfied by the outcome of the independent review you can request that the matter be referred to NAO Senior Management who will consider whether:

  • your complaint has been handled properly;
  • our response was appropriate; and
  • whether any further action is necessary.

You will be sent the outcome of this review into how your complaint was dealt with.

How we deal with complainant’s whose actions or behaviour we consider to be unacceptable

We welcome correspondence from the public that helps us carry out our statutory audit functions, and we will investigate any concerns raised about our services to help us continuously improve. However, we have a policy in place to address actions or behaviours that we consider to be unacceptable. We will implement this policy as a last resort when someone acts aggressive, abusive, unreasonably demanding, or causes inappropriate or excessive demands on our services and members of staff.

Further information about our Unacceptable Behaviours Policy can be found here.

How to contact us

Email: complaints@nao.org.uk

Write: Correspondence team, National Audit Office, 157-197 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9SP