Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, reported today that he had qualified his opinion on the Office for National Statistics 2001-02 Resource Account. This was because he had insufficient evidence to verify payroll charges, totalling £10.3 million, for piecework carried out by field staff employed on the 2001 Census.
According to the NAO report, the dispersed nature of the Census operations meant that tight control over piece rate payments was inherently difficult and depended on the judgements made in the field by temporarily employed Census District and Area Managers. Under the arrangements operated by ONS, it is not possible to verify whether the payments to field staff were consistent with the hours actually worked or claimed to be worked. Sir John was, therefore, unable to form an opinion on the accuracy and regularity of these costs.