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Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the 2009-10 accounts of the Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Comptroller and Auditor General has qualified his audit opinion on the 2009-10 accounts of the Equality and Human Rights Commission owing to irregular expenditure in a number of areas.

In today’s report, the C&AG is pleased to recognize that the Commission has continued to make improvements to its financial controls since he last reported in July 2010, but notes that the legacy of its historic control problems continued to cause difficulties in 2009-10.

In particular, the Commission has yet to agree a pay remit (the maximum level of pay increases for permanent employees) for 2009-10 with its sponsor department, the Government Equalities Office (GEO), and with HM Treasury.  As a result, the Commission did not have authority to incur expenditure on staff pay above the baseline agreed.  However, the Commission incurred additional in-year expenditure of £570,000 in respect of two separate tranches of employees without the authorization of the GEO, thereby breaching the 2009-10 pay remit guidance.

The Commission also incurred irregular expenditure on Single Tender Procurement Actions over £50,000, where it did not seek the appropriate authority from the GEO. The GEO has declined to provide retrospective approval for this expenditure. As a result, the Commission has spent over £1 million without the appropriate approval.

The Commission also did not seek from the GEO its necessary approval for writing off losses of £874,000, mainly relating to its transition website, which experienced serious technical difficulties and, in the Commission’s opinion, could not be restored or used.

While the Commission has made improvements to its financial controls, it has continued to struggle in other areas. For example, it still has difficulty in forecasting future expenditure effectively and needs to get a clearer idea of its spending commitments. The Commission is also over-reliant on interim staff.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said today:

"In my last report on the Commission’s accounts, I found that the weaknesses in its controls were deep seated, and that it would take time for the Commission to put in place rigorous controls and ensure that staff comply with them. My report today indicates that these problems did indeed extend into 2009-10.

"The Commission has recognized these issues and put improvements in place to strengthen financial controls. These changes need to be complemented by a stronger culture of proper management of public money throughout the organization."

Notes for Editors

  1. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at
  2. . Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
  • The Comptroller and Auditor General, Amyas Morse, is the head of the National Audit Office which employs some 900 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.