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Audit Commission to go, but is that a sensible move?

Audit Commission to go, but is that a sensible move?

The Audit Commission is to be scrapped, Eric Pickles, the communities minister, announced last Friday.

The commission employs about 2,000 people to monitor the performance and accounts of public sector bodies. The government claims that shutting it down will save around £50m a year.

This move is likely to benefit the private sector as councils and other public sector bodies will be able to tap into the open market and appoint their own external auditors. By outsourcing audit expertise, the government hopes to cut back on the centrally imposed bureaucracy and costly auditing, thus saving money for council tax payers.

The National Audit Office is to set up a new auditing framework to ensure public sector bodies are still subjected to robust auditing.

Pickles said that the Audit Commission is no longer a watchdog looking after the interests of the taxpayer; rather it has become a creature of Whitehall. This new plan goes together with proposals to create an army of local people who will hold local bodies to account when it comes to spending tax and delivering value for money services.

The Audit Commission, probably understandably, is less than optimistic that this new approach will work. Michael O’Higgins, the Commission’s chairman said the department had more than fulfilled its aims since it was set up by Michael Heseltine and the Tory government in 1983.

The ACCA believes the move will prove costly and lead to inconsistencies in local government reporting. The head of public sector at the ACCA, Gillian Fawcett, pointed out that although a lot of the Audit Commission’s work is currently contracted out; the commission ensures that reporting is consistent.

Whilst this move will undoubtedly benefit some private sector accountants and contractor accountants, the general feeling on the street is that the work will go to the larger accounting firms rather than smaller local businesses.

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Image: Yummy Jelly Beans by Ruth L

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