The Social Fund White Paper Account records payments made to customers in accordance with Directions issued by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
Each year since 2010-11, the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Amyas Morse, has found a clear and sustained reduction in the level of error in Social Fund payments. With a further reduction in errors in 2012-13, he has concluded that the level of error is now no longer material to the Account and that the Department for Work and Pensions has made Social Fund payments materially in accordance with Parliament’s intentions.
In consequence, he has decided not to qualify his opinion on regularity for the account.
The Department now needs to maintain and, if possible, improve further the reduction of the error rate. It needs to take care that the Social Fund reforms from 2013-14 do not disrupt this.
However, the Department still faces a number of significant challenges in relation to debt balances.
In previous years, the C&AG has reported on the Department’s difficulties in reconciling the debt balance recorded on its accounting system with supporting customer records. While the Department has made good progress in addressing these issues in 2012-13, it is still unable to provide adequate assurance that the debt balance disclosed in the 2012-13 account is complete or that debts recorded actually exist or are appropriately valued.
As a result, the C&AG has limited the scope of his audit opinion over the Social Fund debt balances. He will continue to monitor progress on the debt issues and will provide an update in his report on the 2013-14 Social Fund White Paper account.