Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary Memorandum submitted by the Northern Ireland Office


  Following achievement of Trigger Point 3 for the 1998-99 dry run resource accounts the NIO received an accounts direction from HM Treasury in July 2000 requiring the Department to prepare formal resource accounts for 1999-2000, to submit the accounts to the Comptroller and Auditor General by 30 November 2000 and to lay the audited accounts before Parliament by 31 January 2001. The Department failed to meet the submission date although it was in a position to do so shortly after the due date. However it became clear just before Christmas last, after discussion with the auditors, that the NIO, like several other departments, was unlikely to be able to lay unqualified resource accounts for 1999-2000 before Parliament by 31 January 2001.

  The reasons were threefold. First, a full review of capitalisation policy had to be carried out following the identification of inconsistencies in the 1998-99 dry run account. This was a one-off exercise which will not need to be repeated. Secondly, considerable difficulty was encountered in extracting accurate accruals data quickly from the NIO's systems. These deficiencies, which were of less import in the dry run are now being addressed as part of a review of the Department's accountancy function. Thirdly, the absence of key members of staff with the necessary accountancy skills during this period was badly felt. The availability of staff with the right skills is another issue being addressed in the review.

  Since accounts which attract a qualified certificate or a disclaimer would not meet the objectives of resource accounting or Parliament's expectations as reflected in the report of the Public Accounts Committee the Accounting Officer decided to seek from the Treasury a dispensation from the accounts direction. This was granted on 30 January. A new timetable was applied which required the NIO to submit signed resource accounts for 1999-2000 to the C&AG by 31 January 2001—this requirement was met—the C&AG to deliver to the Treasury the certified NIO accounts by 15 March 2001 and the Treasury to place the NIO's accounts before the House of Commons by 31 March 2001.

16 February 2001

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