Public Accounts Commission Press Notice

PN11 11 July 2007 16.00 hrs

For immediate release

Comptroller and Auditor General's expenses

The Commission decided at its meeting on 13 June that a more transparent system was needed for the Comptroller & Auditor General's travel expenses. The Commission met today to agree the detail of that new system. The new arrangements, which have the Comptroller & Auditor General's support, are set out in the attached report.

Key features are:

The Chairman of the National Audit Office's Audit Committee will be briefed in advance on planned expenses of the Comptroller & Auditor General, and will be able to discuss them with the Comptroller & Auditor General and, if necessary, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission;

The National Audit Office will provide the Commission with a six-monthly report on such expenditure, which the Commission can, if it wishes, discuss with the Comptroller & Auditor General at its public meetings;

The framework for the Comptroller & Auditor General's travel expenses will follow, as far as possible, the rules and practices of Permanent Secretaries of government departments;

That framework will include:

Air travel by business class;

Hotels selected on the basis of the best of three competitive quotations, unless diplomatic service accommodation or accommodation at a conference venue is used;

Any travel at public expense by the spouse of the Comptroller & Auditor General to be discussed first with the Chairman of the Audit Committee.

The Commission will also be reviewing the corporate governance arrangements for the National Audit Office to ensure that these conform to best practice.

The current Chairman of the NAO's Audit Committee is Steve Freer, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).

The Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission, the Rt Hon Alan Williams MP, said "I am extremely grateful that Mr Freer has agreed to take on this role in relation to the Comptroller & Auditor General's expenses. His involvement will help to ensure that these arrangements are both effective and transparent.

Mr Freer said "The Public Accounts Commission has taken great care to devise arrangements which will strengthen scrutiny of the Comptroller & Auditor General's expenses and benefits. I am happy to play a personal role in ensuring that these arrangements are implemented successfully in the way the Commission intends. Far from detracting from the Comptroller & Auditor General's independence I believe that these more transparent arrangements will promote public confidence and trust in the critically important work for which the Comptroller & Auditor General is responsible.

CONTACT FOR THE COMMISSION: The Secretary of the Commission, Mr Dorian Gerhold, may be contacted on 020 7219 6257.

NOTE FOR EDITORS: The Commission is appointed under the National Audit Act 1983 to oversee, and, if satisfied, lay before the House of Commons, the annual Estimates for the National Audit Office. It also examines once a year the NAO's Corporate Plan, which covers a three year period.

The Commission Members are:- Rt Hon Alan Williams (Chairman) (Labour, Swansea West), Mr Richard Bacon (Conservative, Norfolk South), Mr Edward Leigh (Conservative, Gainsborough), Dr William McCrea (DUP, South Antrim), Mr John McFall (Labour, West Dunbartonshire), Mr Austin Mitchell (Labour, Great Grimsby), Dr Nick Palmer (Labour, Broxtowe), Rt Hon Jack Straw (Labour, Blackburn) and Mr Andrew Tyrie (Conservative, Chichester).

The Report will be published by TSO as HC 915.