Auditing of Whole of Government Accounts

September 10, 2010

I’ve been curious about The Whole of Government Accounts (WGA) for some time. Curious as to why there is barely any information available on an exercise that seems to be so valuable to public understanding of the financial health of the country.

As I’ve mentioned before, the UK Whole of Government Accounts will be published for the first time, for the 2009-10 financial year, in Spring 2011, but the project has been running in private for the last 10 years.

I’m interested in the auditing process that goes on for the WGA, as this seems to be the stated reasons for not publishing the accounts before.

I’ve learnt that under the terms of the Government Resources and Accounts Act, the Controller and Auditor General is the appointed external auditor and he will provide his opinion and report on the WGA financial statements.

The accounts will be audited on his behalf by the National Audit office (NAO) who will, in part, draw upon assurances from the external auditors of the individual component bodies included in the WGA.

The work of the auditors will be conducted in accordance with an audit strategy memorandum prepared by the NAO. In conducting their audit, the NAO will follow International Standards on Auditing, UK and Ireland (ISAs) so far as they are applicable to WGA.

Prior to 2009-10, Treasury commissioned the NAO annually to review the dry run WGA accounts. These accounts did not constitute full and formal sets of financial statements, and there was no statutory basis for publication. Therefore the work of the NAO did not constitute a
formal audit, nor was a formal audit opinion issued.

Instead, the objectives of the reviews were for the NAO to report back to Treasury on the extent to which they had reservations concerning the development of the processes for preparing WGA and the effect that these may have on the dry run statements, notes and commentary. Though not formal audits, the NAO followed ISAs so far as they were applicable.

So, I requested this report.
The reply stated that the report does exist but that it would:

inhibit the frankness and speed of exchange between the us (the audit commission) and the Treasury in relation to future reports on the WGA process.

So we’ll have to wait until next spring it seems.

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