National Audit Office Press Releases
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Innovation and value for money

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, has recently responded to concerns by Ministers about the effects of external audit and accountability upon civil servants who are taking forward major government projects.

Mr Morse pointed out, far from being against innovation and trying new approaches, the National Audit Office considers such approaches to be essential if the Government is to succeed in delivering improved public services at significantly less cost.

NAO reports bear testimony to this view. Vital strategic projects can run into trouble early but the right thing is often to press on, as was made clear in recent reports by the spending watchdog on such programmes as shared service centres, PAYE modernization and animal health and welfare.

The NAO does not accept that there is a trade-off between favouring innovation and caring about value for money, when it is supported by professional planning, risk-management, and management information.

Parliament, representing the taxpayer, is entitled to expect projects to demonstrate both innovation and value for money. It can be wrong to keep on digging when you are in a hole. On the other hand, even though a project has started badly, sticking to your guns and persistence can bring results. The crucial point is that the decision on whether to proceed should always be well-informed and supported by professional management skills, intelligently applied.

In summary, it should be recognized that such criticisms of the National Audit Office are an occupational hazard for the upholders of value for money - they simply go with the territory.

Notes for Editors

  1. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at www.nao.org.uk. Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
  2. The National Audit Office scrutinizes public spending for Parliament and is independent of government. The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Amyas Morse, is an Officer of the House of Commons and leads the NAO, which employs some 860 staff. The C&AG certifies the accounts of all government departments and many other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to examine and report to Parliament on whether departments and the bodies they fund have used their resources efficiently, effectively, and with economy. Our studies evaluate the value for money of public spending, nationally and locally. Our recommendations and reports on good practice help government improve public services, and our work led to audited savings of more than £1 billion in 2011.