Auditor general criticises financial centre checks


The Comptroller and Auditor General, Kieran Donnelly, criticised the monitoring arrangements of a government financial processing centre, on 22 January 2014.

Account NI provides a financial processing service for Northern Ireland government departments and 18 other public bodies. It processes over 1m transactions a year.

A review of Account NI carried out by the Audit Office (NIAO) and published in October 2013 found that whilst the organisation performed to a very high standard of quality, "Account NI has not sufficiently focused on the cost of the services it provides and it has not routinely measured its performance against comparable organisations."

Giving evidence to the Assembly's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) inquiry into Account NI, Mr Donnelly said the bottom line was that "we would think there should be average costs for processing an invoice and that's not there".

Speaking at the beginning of the committee session, Stephen Peover, the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Finance (DFP), said Account NI was "a success story" that had largely achieved its aims.

The DUP's Trevor Clarke questioned the cost of payments at Account NI.

Mr Peover said it was "inherently difficult to benchmark shared services".

Another DFP official, Paul Wickens, said they needed "to find the 'apples to apples' comparison".

"We want to do benchmarking. We want to prove this is a good system," Mr Peover said.

Mr Peover had likened setting up the Account NI system to buying a car, but the SDLP's John Dallat commented that the car was "a bit of an old banger".