§ Mr. Tyrwhitt Jones
had no expectation, that any thing he could say would induce the noble lord to abandon the bill; but could not omit that opportunity of entering his protest against the measure; which, according to the noble lord's own statement, Was to allow a part of the. 450 millions, which were unaccounted for, to pass as paid, and without any vouchers.
said that, on a former discussion upon this subject, he had endeavoured to convince the noble lord opposite, that be was entirely mistaken in the statement which he had made, as to there being 450 millions of the public money actually unaccounted for; he wished to know, wile. there or not the noble lord, on more mature consideration, was now convinced; that the Calculation, which he (Mr. Rose) had taken the liberty of making, was correct.
§ Lord Henry Petty
intimated, that he was still disposed to adhere to his former opinion upon that subject.
then rose again, and entered into a 'minute statement and calculation in order to shew the impossibility of there being such an immense sum as 450 millions actually unaccounted for. He was still more fully convinced than ever, of his former statement having been just; and he now had occasion deeply to regret, that the noble lord seemed inclined to press for ward this measure in the present session o parliament. He thought it would be fa: better, were the noble lord to content him self, in the mean time, with the appointment of some overseers, or inspectors, to ascertain whether or not the former corn, missioners were going on properly. It would 1022 cast no reflection upon these former commissioners, even although it were found proper that they should be instructed to pursue a different course. if the noble lord had waited a few months longer, he might, by further enquiries, and more minute investigation, have become of opinion, that the whole business. might be sufficiently well carried on by the appointment, merely, of additional clerks, instead of new commissioners. He had, certainly, heard the noble lord with considerable surprise, when he stated in that house, that there were 450 millions unaccounted for; when, by the closest examination, he (Mr. R.) could give to the subject, he had ascertained, clearly, that there were only 21 millions actually to be audited by the commissioners, out of 217 millions, the exact amount of the whole unaudited accounts. The cause of the noble lord's mistatement arose from various circumstances. There were various representations in his (lord Petty's) mode of calculation; several desperate accounts were included, which ought to have been omitted; and there wee, also, some irregularities in the manner of transacting some payment made by the bank. The paymaster-general's accounts had been retarded, merely from there not being a possibility of clearing them. There had been a practice grown up, since 1783, which empowered the pay-master-general to issue sums of money, merely on a letter from the secretary at war, and no regular vouchers had ever been obtained. On the very first day on which he came into the pay-office, he looked into these matters, and discovered great irregularities. He required of his colleagues, to produce regular warrants for all the sums that had been so issued; but, on the impossibility of doing so for such a length of time, he did not wish to throw impediments or obstacles in the way of their daily business. He, however, lost no time in making complete and new arrangements, so that the pay-master's accounts were no longer kept in arrear. The evil of the these outstanding accounts would not be cured by this bill. The noble lord was perfectly mistaken, if he supposed that, by this new appointment of auditors, he could audit accounts which it had been, formerly, found impossible to examine, on account or the want of vouchers. On the whole, he could not help repeating, that an additional number of inspectors would be better adapted for keeping the present auditors going on with the business expeditiously. 1023 In other respects, be did not see much to object to the bill, as it bore such an affinity to the one formerly brought into parliament. He approved particularly of that part which respected the comptroller, and that was still the only part which was new. As to the other clause, which he himself had Suggested, it was still unintelligible. What he wished was, that governors of provinces or settlements abroad, who receive and expend the public money, should be the accountants themselves. At the same time, he would not dispute, that there might be cases occurring, when the commissioners might have an option, whether to make these general officers their accountants, or those who were employed under them to expend the money. It should also be provided, that the commissioners of the treasury should not make any allowances, but under certain provisions. On the whole, this bill went to create great additional and unnecessary expenses upon the country, without any advantage whatever. If he could prevail upon the noble lord to defer this bill till next session, to give to the former commissioners a few additional inspectors, and, in the mean time, to examine the accounts more deliberately, before doing any thing, he should be perfectly satisfied, as be was fully. convinced the noble lord would see the impropriety of the measures be was now so imprudently adopting.
§ Lord Henry Petty
replied, that the measure under consideration had been adopted on the representations of those best qualified to judge of the propriety and expediency of it; representations which,he had reason to think, had been made to the late, as Well as the present, treasury. He contended, and, when experience would afford a criterion of the tact, should contend, that this measure cotained provisions both new and efficient, both in the distinction of the boards, and the classification of the accounts into those in arrear there now under audit and the current accounts. The noble lord then refer red to the authority of the auditors themselves; and read an extract from a letter, from them to the treasury in 1800, to shew, that the bank accounts were part of the public accounts that ought to be audited by a separate and independent board.
§ Mr. Huskisson
allowed, that the delay of auditing public accounts was an encouragement to fraud, and went to prevent proper persons from wishing to become public accountants. He spoke in commendation of 1024 the system adopted by the late chancellor of the exchequer. He bad the fullest confidence in the commissioners who composed the present board of audit, and the clerks annexed. He complained of the mode of swelling the sum now said to be unaccounted for, by including the same incidental sum several times in every accountant's hands through which they had to pass. It was only those accountants that had a discretionary power that ought to be checked. It was the intention of the late chancellor of the exchequer, to prevent any considerable discretionary expence in any department of the public service, without the previous sanction of the treasury, which was to undertake all the responsibility.—The bill then went through a committee.—The report was ordered to be received to-morrow.