§ Mr. Brandon-Bravo
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he has received any conclusions on the use of accountancy firms for the statutory audit of National Health Service authorities; and if he will make a statement.496W
§ Mr. Newton
Private sector firms of accountants have been employed as statutory auditors of a small number of health authorities since 1982 as an experiment to determine what benefits might[...] derived from the involvement of accountancy firms in the statutory audit of National Health Service authorities which until then had been undertaken entirely by Departmental audit staff.
A comprehensive review of the experiment has now been completed by a steering group, the membership of which included the head of the Government accountancy service, senior members of the staff of the National Audit Office and of the Audit Commission, and the director of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. I have now considered their report, and I have accepted their main recommendation that the continued involvement of private firms can be of benefit to the whole statutory audit process, and that in future up to 50 statutory audits shall be undertaken by five audit firms. The statutory audit of the remainder of the National Health Service will continue to be carried out by the Department's audit staff.
Preparations are now being made to invite competitive tenders for these audits, in order to make appointments to commence with the audit of the accounts for 1987–88.