Well, Mr Walker, we are going at a fair old pace and you are keeping me on my toes today.
Clause 4 is the first of several clauses that form a considered set of measures to make the trust fully accountable for the taxpayer’s money it receives. It sets out the accounting and audit requirements to which the trust will be subject. These are straightforward: it must produce accounts each year in a form prepared according to any direction set by the Secretary of State and send them to the Comptroller and Auditor General as soon as practicable. The NAO will be the trust’s official auditor, I am delighted to say, as is typical for public bodies. It will examine, certify and report on the accounts. The Comptroller and Auditor General must then place a copy of the accounts before Parliament. We are determined to ensure proper accountability of spending on NCS and the clause is obviously a key part of that.
The Bill has been introduced to make the trust accountable to Parliament in its royal charter form. If the Bill did not require the trust to produce accounts or lay them before Parliament, the Government would be failing in our aim to provide Parliament and the public with details of how the trust has discharged its funding. In accordance with “Managing public money”, the Government’s handbook, we will in practice require the trust to have an accounting officer to sign off the accounts. The principal accounting officer in the Department of Culture Media and Sport will confer accounting officer status, and this will typically be the chief executive of the organisation.
Parliament can call the accounting officer to account for the management of the trust’s resources. Standards for accounting officers are high and they are expected to ensure that their organisation is running effectively and to a high standard of probity. Were Parliament to become concerned about the trust’s accounts, Committees such as the PAC can call it to account.
The clause requires that the accounts must be submitted to the auditor as soon as is practicable. This allows flexibility from year to year. The Government work collaboratively with their public bodies, so the Bill will not tie either party to any working process unnecessarily. The clause also specifies that:
That is a delegated power that can be used to ensure that the trust is up to date with the latest accounting practices and standards in governance.