By Tony Collins
Today’s National Audit Office report “The effectiveness of internal audit in central government” raises questions about whether the £70m cost of internal auditors is a pointless expense.
Internal auditors are supposed to be the “eyes and ears” in the organisation to highlight what is going wrong. But their reports are kept secret – so why should civil servants take any notice of them, and what incentive do the internal auditors have to blow the whistle on failing schemes if they are going to be ignored?
The NAO suggests that internal audit has not been helpful in providing early warning of IT-repeated disasters such as Firecontrol. But it does not recommend that internal audit reports are published. Neither does yesterday’s Civil Service Reform Plan.
The NAO says
“Our value-for-money studies, such as the procurement of Type 45 destroyers and the development of new fire and rescue regional control centres, have identified many instances where there has been poor value for money because core systems have not provided sufficiently realistic, robust or comprehensive information to allow effective oversight and decision-making.
“In many cases these weaknesses have not been identified by internal audit.”
The NAO concludes in today’s report that the £70m spent annually on internal audit is “poor value for money”. Internal audit in central government employs 1,000 people says the NAO.