By Tony Collins
The National Audit Office has again qualified the annual accounts of the Department for Work and Pensions.
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, says the level of fraud and error at the DWP remains “unacceptably high”. His office published the DWP’s annual report and accounts today.
“The Department’s accounts, and those of predecessor Departments administering this expenditure, have received similar qualified audit opinions since 1988-89.
“Issuing an audit qualification is a serious matter, and the fact that similar qualifications have been in place for such a long period of time does not lessen that seriousness.
“I consider that the overall value of fraud and error in benefit expenditure remains unacceptably high, and the qualification of my audit opinion reflects that.”
On Universal Credit Morse says that the DWP acknowledges that actions to improve programme management, through the existing IT functionality and the development of the digital end-state solution, and to support new governance arrangements, are on-going and their operational effectiveness is still to be proven.
“It is clear that the Department still has much to do to address all the concerns raised and to ensure it delivers value for money in its implementation of the Universal Credit programme.
“The Department is continuing to spend significant sums in developing the programme, as it both maintains and enhances the existing IT functionality, while simultaneously designing a new digital end-state to replace it.
“The Department will need to exert rigorous control over this expenditure, and ensure it uses the available funding effectively and does not need to impair further assets.” The DWP had written off about £40m on the Universal Credit programme by the time of the NAO’s September 2013 report.
The NAO will publish a new report on the Universal Credit programme before the end of 2014, says Morse.