17 June 2020: Treasury writes stern ‘Dear Accounting Officer’ letter instructing departments to stop delaying compliance with PAC recommendations.
In a co-ordinated move, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and HM Treasury issued instructions to government departments to stop unilaterally extending the deadlines on addressing PAC recommendations, and to write to the PAC promptly to explain any delays in completing agreed actions.
Meg Hiller MP, Chair of the PAC, recently wrote to HM Treasury complaining about the behaviour of some departments who have been deferring implementation of agreed actions to address PAC recommendations and doing so without providing an explanation for the delay. Sometimes the PAC only finds out about delays many months after deadlines have been missed.
In response, Treasury has issued a ‘Dear Accounting Officer’ letter instructing departments to ensure systems are in place to monitor progress on implementing recommendations and to write to the PAC immediately it becomes clear that a recommendation is no longer on track to be implemented by the agreed target date. Departments need to provide a detailed explanation for a deferral together with a revised date for completion.
Martin Wheatcroft FCA, advisor to ICAEW on public finances, said:
“This is an unusual and very public shot across the bows of departments. It brings out into the open the frustration felt by both the Public Accounts Committee and Treasury when weaknesses in systems and processes identified by the PAC are not dealt with as planned.
Permanent Secretaries are now on notice that any backsliding on implementing agreed actions is not acceptable, and that attempting to slip missed deadlines past the PAC in routine reports many months later is not going to work anymore.”