Nolan welcomes check on agencies

February 28, 1997

GOVERNMENT plans to create a forum for agencies that keep an eye on quangos and such public bodies as universities have received a cautious welcome from Lord Nolan, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Proposals for a Public Audit Forum, contained in the White Paper The Governance of Public Bodies, were "potentially an important development in the world of public audit", but also "an opportunity which could easily be wasted," Lord Nolan said.

The White Paper, which is the Government's response to the Nolan committee's second report on further and higher education funding councils and institutions and other bodies, suggests that national audit agencies organise a consultative forum.

Lord Nolan, speaking to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, said the forum should help agencies and government departments to work together on questions of openness and accountability.

"When I became chairman of the Nolan committee, I was surprised to see letters from the chairman of the public accounts committee to the Chancellor of the Exchequer seeking better rights of access to public bodies, and letters from the Chancellor of the Exchequer resisting this.

"It seemed to me that the interest of the chancellor in securing proper audit of public expenditure was at least as great as that of the chairman of the public accounts committee, and that they should be working together to reach agreement on how best to achieve that," he said.

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