The Equality and Human Rights Commission has made significant improvements in its financial management leading the Comptroller and Auditor General to issue an unqualified audit opinion on its 2010-11 accounts. This is the first clear audit opinion on the Commission’s accounts since it was formed in 2007.
The C&AG had qualified his audit opinion on the accounts for the previous year, 2009-10, because the Commission had failed to agree its pay remit with HM Treasury, had written off losses of £874,000 without the appropriate approval and also incurred irregular expenditure on Single Tender Procurement Actions over £50,000, where it did not seek the appropriate authority. The Commission also could not provide the C&AG with evidence that some grants to external bodies were regular.
Audit work on the 2010-11 accounts has shown no instances of non-compliance with the procurement Framework Agreement, the Commission agreed its pay remit with the Home Office in July 2011 and there have been no further write-offs in 2010-11. The Commission has also introduced new record keeping procedures.
However, interim staff have delivered many of the improvements that the Commission has put in place. The C&AG has expressed concern that, once these staff leave, the improvements for which they have been responsible will lapse. The Commission will need to ensure not only that it appoints properly qualified and experienced staff to fill these posts, but also that there is a proper transfer of knowledge to these staff.
The C&AG has also expressed his concern about the culture of the Commission with regard to financial and administrative controls. It is imperative that senior management, led by the new Chief Executive, are clear and unequivocal in their expectations that staff will comply with the laid down financial procedures and manage public funds effectively, and that such expectations are reflected through active performance management.
Publication date: 24 November 2011