Government accounts 'failing to explain spending'

Image source, PA

It should be easier for the public and MPs to assess whether government spending offers value for money, a parliamentary committee has said.

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee said departmental accounts were not designed for "democratic scrutiny" and being read or used as much as they should.

The published documents often fail to explain the "effectiveness of government spending", its report added.

It said they could be more informative.

The cross-party committee of MPs considered the publication of departmental annual reports and accounts, as well as management accounts designed for the use of ministers and officials.

Government accounting has improved in recent years but the changes do not go far enough, the MPs added,

They said: "Our vision is that accounts should report on the value for money of government services, the commitments made to Parliament by government, and provide a credible record of expenditure and the balance sheet. Currently we believe that they are only meeting the last requirement."

Committee chairman Bernard Jenkin added: "Financial accountability lies at the heart of parliamentary sovereignty and of democratic government."

The report said the public should be able to identify how much was spent on individual services by a department. It said the cost of a school place or a police officer visit, for example, should be clear.

It also recommended ministers include a statement with their accounts setting out "promises of funding and saving and what was achieved against that".

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