Amyas Morse, the Comptroller and Auditor General, has qualified his audit opinion in respect of two years of financial statements for Firebuy Ltd, covering 2010-11 and the short period in 2011-12 up to the closure of the company in July 2011. This was on the grounds of considerable uncertainty surrounding the accuracy of those statements.
Firebuy Ltd, an NDPB of the Department for Communities and Local Government, closed without having prepared financial statements for the two financial years in question.
The Treasury’s Managing Public Money is clear that, when an NDPB closes, there should be procedures in place to gain independent assurance on key transactions, financial commitments, cash flows and other information needed for the Department (and, in this case, the liquidators) to handle the wind-up effectively. In this instance, Firebuy Ltd did not transfer all of its financial documentation to the Department.
As a result, there were transactions and account balances for which the Comptroller and Auditor General was unable to obtain sufficient documentary evidence. Furthermore, there were no longer any Directors or staff of Firebuy Ltd to provide explanations for transactions, adjustments and events which the Department could not explain.
The main role of Firebuy Ltd was to help deliver procurement efficiencies for fire and rescue authorities in England through nationally negotiated contracts with suppliers. In October 2010, the Government announced the closure of the body. All of its procurement functions were transferred to other organisations.
The Department has already taken steps to ensure that lessons are learned from this company closure – by communicating the problems encountered with Firebuy Ltd to key stakeholders in the Departmental group who are also preparing to face closure issues in relation to other bodies.