NAO calls for more access to outsourcing firms

Legislation giving the National Audit Office (NAO) access to the accounts of private companies delivering public services would be “extremely helpful”, Amyas Morse, the auditor general, said last week.


By Suzannah.Brecknell

14 Nov 2013

Speaking at a hearing of the Public Accounts Commission, which scrutinises the NAO, he said: “I’d like to have rights to access which are only given by agreement at the moment.” Asked whether legislation for this could be simple, he replied that it could be, “and in the current circumstances that we’re in [with growing outsourcing], I think that would be extremely helpful.”

Morse was speaking ahead of the publication of an NAO report, released yesterday, which considered the work of G4S, Serco, Capita and Atos – which between them receive £4bn from central government. The report notes that recent allegations of poor supplier performance and misreporting have raised “concerns about whether all contractors know what is going on in their business and behave appropriately”.

As well as suggesting that there should be more transparency about costs, profits and tax paid by major contractors, the report recommends that government should change the financial incentives to force businesses to ensure that they report accurate data on service delivery.

A second report considers the Cabinet Office’s role in managing major government suppliers. It cautions against focusing too much on achieving short-term cost savings at the expense of building relationships to secure investment and innovation (see CO savings story).

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