The Department for Education (DfE) has used a statutory instrument to extend the statutory deadline for laying its financial accounts before Parliament to 29 April 2016. The extension will allow the Department time to improve the quality of its accounts.
The Treasury is required to lay Government Departments' accounts before the House of Commons by 31 January each year. Most departments' annual reports and accounts are laid before the summer recess in July.
Neil Carmichael MP, Chair of the Education Committee, said:
"Government departments have ten months to get their accounts in order and laid before Parliament for proper public scrutiny, and most manage with far less. Slipping out a statutory instrument to extend the deadline on the last possible day is further evidence of DfE’s struggle to get its act together on financial matters.
The Committee agreed in December to invite the Permanent Secretary to explain the Department's plans for academy accounts. Today's events leave us with no alternative but to consider the wider question of financial management at the DfE."
Departmental accounts and statutory instruments
Departmental accounts are required to be laid before Parliament under Section 6 (4) of the Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000. An order (or 'statutory instrument', a form of delegated legislation) laid under Section 22 of the same Act, used only exceptionally, can extend the deadline.
Under the 'negative resolution procedure', the statutory instrument will only be debated if a Motion is tabled by a Member of Parliament calling for the motion to be annulled.
In recent years, the only instance of the statutory deadline being extended by order for a government department has been 2011-12 accounts from DCMS, which were laid on 25 February 2013. The 2012 London Olympics were cited as a major reason for this delay.