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Comptroller and Auditor General

Volume 463: debated on Monday 23 July 2007

27. What progress has been made in developing the new system for overseeing the expenses incurred by the Comptroller and Auditor General in the performance of his duties. (151088)

The Public Accounts Commission met on 11 July and agreed a system of oversight for expenses incurred by the Comptroller and Auditor General in the discharge of his functions. The new arrangements are set out in the Commission’s 13th report.

While I and other Members from the east midlands were on a nightmare journey to Westminster via a Midland Mainline train with standing room only, and King’s Cross-St. Pancras station was closed, the head of the National Audit Office was purring from home to work by chauffeur-driven car at the public expense, using a perk that is not even recorded in NAO accounts. Can the feisty Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee get a grip on this flagrant exploitation of the public purse by the Comptroller and Auditor General; otherwise, Sir John really will think that in this Government, there is one born every minute.

I do not think that those remarks do the hon. Gentleman, who is Parliamentarian, or should I say Back Bencher, of the year any credit. The fact is that Sir John Bourn has done an outstanding job in Parliament on behalf of the taxpayer for many years. It is also important that we preserve the independence of the National Audit Office. The car referred to by the hon. Gentleman is provided by the NAO for its work, and it is used by the Comptroller and Auditor General for that purpose. As he well knows, the Commission, in the light of recent public concern, has put a transparent system in place, by which an external auditor—the chairman of the NAO audit committee—will be briefed in advance on planned expenses. He will discuss them with the Comptroller and Auditor General, and if necessary, with the Chairman of the Commission. These expenses, in turn, can be discussed in public with the Commission. I believe that we have a transparent system.