Whither National Audit Office neutrality?

October 27, 1994

Recent events at the University of Huddersfield prompt questions about the independence of the National Audit Office, which earlier this week presented its interim report on the Huddersfield affair to the Public Accounts Committee.

At the Head of the National Audit Office is the comptroller and auditor general. We are constantly reminded that it is not only the universities and colleges which are subject to his scrutiny, but also the funding councils, which are directly accountable to central Government.

The problem is that the comptroller and auditor general is appointed by the Prime Minister of the day, and is therefore not totally independent of Government and the various statutory agencies and publicly funded bodies which from time to time he is obliged to investigate.

There is plainly a weakness in the system of public accountability. This would be remedied if the appointment of the comptroller and auditor general were transferred to the Public Accounts Committee, which is answerable to Parliament.

JOHN T. HALL Head of education law department, Eversheds, London

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