“An increasing number of local public bodies are demonstrating “significant weaknesses” in securing value for money, MPs have warned.
Auditors found more than 20% of local authorities, NHS bodies and police and fire authorities in England did not have proper arrangements in place to achieve value for money in 2017-18, the Public Accounts Committee has said.
Central government’s measures to stop this were “limited”, the watchdog added.
NHS bodies, like Clinical Commissioning Groups and hospital trusts, were found to be the worst public bodies for assuring taxpayers’ money is spent effectively, according to the PAC report out today.
Qualified audit opinions – which signify weaknesses in an organisations accounts – were issued to 38% of NHS bodies in the last financial year, compared to 29% in 2015-16, it said.
In 2015-16 18% of non-NHS local bodies were given a qualified audit opinion, compared to 22% in 2017-18.
There were 495 local authorities, local police and local fire bodies subject to external audit, with responsibility for £54bn of net revenue spending in 2017-18. Another 442 local NHS bodies received funding from the Department of Health and Social Care of approximately £100bn.
Only 5% of local bodies had implemented changes to address weaknesses highlighted by auditors last year, according to information obtained by the National Audit Office.
The PAC noted that some bodies were failing to put enough information in the public domain, including reports from external auditors and suggested that central government should “make clear their expectations” for information that should be made public helping citizens hold bodies to account.
“Local bodies should also be taking auditors’ concerns seriously and addressing them promptly, but there appear to be few consequences for those who do not,” the report said.
The committee said that central departments were not doing enough to make sure that local bodies take “prompt corrective action”.
Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC, said: “Taxpayers must be assured that their money is well-spent but in too many cases local bodies cannot properly safeguard value.
“Particularly concerning are NHS bodies such as CCGs and hospital trusts: last year almost two in five did not have adequate arrangements.
“It is vital that local bodies take auditors’ concerns seriously, address them swiftly and ensure meaningful information on performance is made accessible to the public.”
DHSC and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have been contacted for comment.”