Financial Auditing and Reporting: General Report to the Northern Ireland Assembly by the Comptroller and Auditor General 2013
Kieran Donnelly, the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland and Head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office, today reported the results of financial audit work undertaken primarily on the 2012-13 accounts of government departments and other public sector bodies. The report also includes a review of invoice prompt payment performance of a range of public sector bodies and examines the cost of providing loans to Northern Ireland Students.
His report records that the resource accounts of four departments and the accounts of 12 Arm’s-Length Bodies received qualified audit opinions. Many of the qualifications reflect the findings in the 2012 General Report, such as failure to obtain Department of Finance and Personnel expenditure approvals; levels of fraud and error; irregular expenditure; and insufficient audit evidence. Mr Donnelly said:
“The standards of financial accounting continue to remain high, demonstrated by the quality and timeliness of financial reporting. However, my report records the qualification of 16 accounts. All qualifications are indicative of weaknesses in internal control.”
Prompt Payment of Invoices
The report reviews the prompt payment performance of a range of public sector bodies including Central Government Departments, Arm’s-Length Bodies, Health and Social Care (HSC)Trusts and Education and Library Boards (ELBs). In 2012-13 these bodies processed over 2.6 million invoices to suppliers. The Assembly is committed to prompt payment, in particular the10 day target – the report shows that while there has been improvement over the past two years, public bodies need to maximise the number of valid invoices paid within both the 30 and 10 day targets. Mr Donnelly said
“The Executive has reiterated its commitment to paying suppliers within 10 days during 2013 and it is important that all public bodies ensure that steps are taken to identify efficiencies and approve and release valid invoices for payment without delay”.
10-day invoice payment performance by sector
|Central Government||Health Bodies (including HSC Trusts)||Education Bodies (Including ELBs)||Arm’s-Length Bodies|
|improved performance in achieving target||showed 1 per cent improvement but well behind Central Government||4 per cent improvement in performance but well behind Central Government||4per cent improvement in performance but behind Central Government|
Cost of Providing Loans to Northern Ireland Students
The cost of providing loans to Northern Ireland Students is financed by HM Treasury through ring-fenced funding allocated to the Department for Employment and Learning. Any increases or decreases in the costs do not have a direct impact on the Northern Ireland Executive’s block grant. There are two types of loan available to students - Maintenance Loans and Tuition Fee Loans. The report shows that the closing value of these student loans at 31 March 2013 was £1.3 billion, an increase of £663 million from 2007-08.
- The Comptroller and Auditor General is Head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office (the Audit Office). He and the NIAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of Government Departments and a range of other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to report to the Assembly on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and public bodies use their resources. His reports are published as Assembly papers.
- The four departments concerned are the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Department of Education and the Department for Social Development. The 12 Arm’s-Length Bodies received qualified audit opinions are:
- NI Housing Executive (2012-13)
- NI Social Security Agency (2012-13);
- Child Maintenance and Enforcement Division Client Funds (2012-13);
- NI Legal Services Commission (2012-13);
- NI Social Fund (2011-12)
- Ilex (2011-12)
- NI Library Authority (2011-12)
- Five Education and Library Boards (2011-12)