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National Audit Office report: Home Office Resource Account 2004-2005

Home Office Resource Account 2004-2005

“It is disappointing that the Home Office had not maintained proper financial books and records for the financial year ending 31 March 2005 and has been unable to deliver its accounts for auditing by the statutory deadline.

“The Home Office has recognised the need to strengthen its financial control framework, and to improve its financial statements preparation processes to enable it to meets its accountability obligations to Parliament, and has taken or has in hand actions for this purpose. Senior management leadership and commitment will be vital to the Department’s success in producing accounts for 2005-06 to meet the Treasury’s faster closing targets and statutory requirements”.

“It is disappointing that the Home Office had not maintained proper financial books and records for the financial year ending 31 March 2005 and has been unable to deliver its accounts for auditing by the statutory deadline.

“The Home Office has recognised the need to strengthen its financial control framework, and to improve its financial statements preparation processes to enable it to meets its accountability obligations to Parliament, and has taken or has in hand actions for this purpose. Senior management leadership and commitment will be vital to the Department’s success in producing accounts for 2005-06 to meet the Treasury’s faster closing targets and statutory requirements”.

Sir John Bourn

 

Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, reported to Parliament today that the Home Office had not maintained proper financial books and records for the financial year ending 31 March 2005. Sir John therefore concluded that, because the Home Office failed to deliver its accounts for audit by the statutory timetable and because of the fundamental nature of the problems encountered, he could not reach an opinion on the truth and fairness of the Home Office’s accounts.

The Home Office is now taking steps to strengthen its financial control framework, and to improve its financial statements preparation processes.

The implementation of a new accounting system contributed to late delivery of the Home Office’s accounts. Difficulties encountered in the transfer and cleansing of data and the fact that staff were not trained to use the new system on a timely basis, together with a lack of understanding of the new accounting system, meant that the Home Office could not use data from its new accounting system effectively to produce a cogent set of accounts to the required faster closing and statutory timetables. In addition, during 2004-05, there were significant control weaknesses within key IT applications which the Home Office has now taken significant steps to address.

Because of the difficulties in implementing the new accounting system, the Home Office was unable to reconcile its cash position during 2004-05, i.e. match its own records of cash payments and receipts with those shown on its bank statements. This is a key control for the prevention and detection of fraud. Following significant work by the Home Office to investigate a £3.035 million discrepancy, it had to make adjustments of £946 million to reconcile its cash position. However the Home Office found no evidence of fraud following this work.

The report points out that the poor quality of the financial statements and the delay to their production reflected a lack of skills within the accounts branch compounded by late recognition by management of the serious problems being encountered. Management procedures to ensure the quality of the financial information produced were also inadequate.

The Home Office has recognised the need to strengthen its financial control framework and to improve its preparation processes for financial statements to enable it to meet its accountability obligations to Parliament. Actions taken to address the problems include:

  • the redesign and restructuring of its financial accounting function;
  • continuing work on 2004-05 account in order to provide a more robust basis for preparing a timely account for 2005-06;
  • commissioning a review to determine the factors that prevented the timely preparation of the 2004-05 accounts and the further action that is required, which will report to the Audit Committee; and
  • ensuring that focus is maintained on financial control environment through close monitoring.

 

Publication details:

ISBN: 0102937036 [Buy a hard copy of this report from TSO]

HC: 826 2005-2006

Published date: January 31, 2006