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Most government departments are continuing to produce high quality accounts and are presenting them for audit in a timely fashion. However, Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, had to issue qualified opinions on seven out of 54 sets of departmental resource accounts in 2005-06, compared with two out of 54 sets in the previous year.

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Today’s report to Parliament on the financial audit of government accounts for 2005-06 shows that standards of accountability and probity remain high. However, a small number of departments still have more to do to prepare accounts for which there is sufficient audit evidence to conclude that the accounts provide a true and fair view and that the underlying transactions are regular in all areas.

Sir John issued qualified opinions on seven of the 54 resource accounts: Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions, the Assets Recovery Agency, Armed Forces Pension Scheme, House of Commons members account, NHS Pension scheme, and the Revenue and Customs Prosecution office.

The Treasury’s ‘Faster Closing’ initiative is delivering faster production and audit of departmental resource accounts. As such, by July 2006, 87 per cent of departments had submitted their resource accounts for audit, compared to 51 per cent in 2005. Fundamental to the success of faster closing is the recognition that the accounts production process is not merely a year end activity, but something departments should produce and utilise through the financial year.

The National Audit Office will continue to work with audited bodies to help achieve the aims of better financial management and timelier external financial reporting.

"This year I have been impressed with the improvement in timeliness of government accounts submitted for audit, and I believe the steps taken by the Treasury and departments to improve their financial management are delivering benefits.

"A few departments still have some way to go in providing high quality accounts on a timely basis, but this should not overshadow the significant improvement achieved by the majority. For departments to be able to plan effectively and make informed decisions, their financial information must be robust and complete."

Sir John Bourn


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