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NAO Financing

Volume 485: debated on Thursday 11 December 2008

5. What recent representations the Public Accounts Commission has received on the financing and cost-effectiveness of the National Audit Office. (242326)

The Public Accounts Commission monitors the financing and cost-effectiveness of the National Audit Office, especially when considering the NAO’s three-year corporate plan and when approving its estimates for the coming year.

I am grateful for that answer. Is it not the case that the NAO has a target of saving the taxpayer £9 for every pound that its operations cost? Would the NAO not be able to do that much more easily if it had a proper grip on the £250,000 million-worth of private finance initiative projects, which are prohibitive in cost, flawed in concept and intolerable in consequence? Alternatively, the NAO could get a grip on Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to bridge the tax gap, which at a minimum is at least £25 billion a year, in tax avoidance by the best-off individuals and the 700 largest corporations.

I should like to comfort my hon. Friend, as I know he gets very anguished about the National Audit Office. It has in fact progressively increased its performance. When I first went on to the Public Accounts Committee—I think it was in 1990—the ratio was 5:1 and at the request of the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Accounts Commission, the ratio has gradually increased to 9:1. A nice ballpark figure for my hon. Friend to remember is that as a result of that, in the last 18 months the NAO has saved the taxpayer £1 billion.