Headlines: August 5th, 1998

The head of the National Audit Office has called for more powers to check up on
public services.

In his latest report on his own organisation’s performance, Sir John Bourn says
there is scope for the role of audit to extend into independent validation of
performance information used to measure the success of public services.

He says that independent validation is essential if the public and Parliament
are to have confidence in published performance information. He points out
that this view is shared by the Committee of Public Accounts, the Treasury
Select Committee and the Procedures Committee.

Looking to existing performance, Sir John says the NAO has saved the taxpayer
more than ?1 billion over the last three years, saving more than ?7 for every
?1 spent on running costs.

The audit office checks on some ?560 billion of expenditure and revenue,
including large departments such as the Department of Social Security spending
over ?96 billion each year and smaller bodies such as the Royal Botanic
Gardens, Kew which spends ?30 million.

It also produces reports on value for money implications of developments in the
public sector. Recently it has reported on change in the Crown Prosecution
Service and reviewed the first privately financed road schemes.