New: NAO e:newsletter April 2019

We are pleased to outline here the 30 reports we have published since our January e:newsletter. Covering a wide range of topics, they shed light on:

  • EU Exit preparations
  • Performance measurement
  • Local, health, social care and disability – including governance, devolved funding and NHS financial sustainability
  • Cyber security and cloud services
  • Programmes and contracts.

We have also published our twice-yearly Round-up for Audit Committees outlining useful management resources published over the last six months. This include a valedictory message from Sir Amyas Morse, whose tenure as Comptroller & Auditor General concludes at the end of May, and a focus on 'Planning and spending', which sets out self-assessment planning maturity questions.


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If you’d like to discuss any of the matters raised in this e:newsletter, please contact us.


EU Exit preparations


Contingency preparations for exiting the EU with no deal: a briefing on the Civil Contingencies Secretariat’s preparations.


The UK border: preparedness for EU exit update: a memorandum to support the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).


The award of contracts for additional freight capacity on ferry services: this memorandum supported the PAC inquiry into Department for Transport (DfT) contracts to provide additional freight capacity between the UK and mainland Europe to mitigate the impact on the transport system if the UK leaves the European Union (EU) without a deal. It was completed prior to DfT announcing the cancellation of its agreement with Seaborne Freight (UK) Limited.


See also our Exiting the EU web-page.


Performance measurement


Regulating to protect consumers: Utilities, communications and financial services markets assesses how well Ofwat, Ofgem, Ofcom and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) measure and report their performance in protecting the interests of consumers. This refers to our 2016 guidance on Performance measurement by Regulators – this web-page includes our ‘Performance measurement good practice criteria and maturity model’.


Environmental metrics: government’s approach to monitoring the state of the natural environment sets out our expectations of good practice for an effective system of performance metrics, and evaluates the government’s system for measuring progress towards its environmental objectives, as published in the 25-Year Environment Plan.


See also our Performance measurement web-page.


Local, health, social care and disability


Local government in 2019: a pivotal year: Abdool Kara, NAO’s Executive Leader for Local Services, blogs about challenges facing the sector in 2019.


Local authority governance describes local governance arrangements and examines whether they are providing assurance that local authorities are financially sustainable and their spending is delivering value for money.


Planning for new homes assesses how effectively the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s supports the planning regime to provide the right homes in the right places and to meet its ambition of 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s.


Pressures on children’s social care covers the response of national and local government to increasing demand for children’s social care, and our analysis of what is causing variations in this demand between local authorities.


NHS financial sustainability covers 2017-18 and concludes that the growth in waiting lists and slippage in waiting times, and the existence of substantial deficits in some parts of the system, offset by surpluses elsewhere do not add up to a sustainable picture. The long-term plan for the NHS and government commitment to longer-term stable growth in funding are positive developments, and the plan seems to be based on prudent assumptions. Whether the ambitions are supported by funding will depend on the results of the Spending Review for the non-NHS England parts of the health service, and the funding for social care. 


NHS waiting times for elective and cancer treatment examines waiting times performance, including its variability, its impact on patients, the factors influencing it and the approach to managing it.


Investigation into the management of health screening was prompted by two events in 2018 that raised concerns about the management and understanding of programmes to screen for conditions such as breast cancer. Focusing on four programmes, we set out facts about their delivery, performance, oversight and progress in implementing change.


Investigation into overpayments of Carer’s Allowance examines both the concerns about the recent increase in identified errors in Carer’s Allowance and attempts to recover overpayments, and the Department for Work and Pensions’ progress in managing fraud and error in Carer’s Allowance over time.


Supporting disabled people to work examines the Department for Work & Pensions’ support to help disabled people overcome barriers to work.


See also our Local services web-page.


Cyber security and cloud services


Guidance for audit committees on cloud services outlines what you need to know about cloud services and their use in government, and suggests questions to ask at planning, implementation and management stages.


Progress of the 2016-2021 National Cyber Security Programme examines the government’s approach to cyber security and the programme’s management, progress and expected achievements. It finds that failings in the way the programme was established mean the government does not know whether the goals will be achieved, and it is unclear how cyber security needs will be addressed and funded after 2021.


See also our Digital service delivery web-page.


Programmes and contracts


Framework to review programmes sets out questions we ask when reviewing programmes. It has been updated, including new examples of good practice and lessons learnt.


Reforming the civilian workforce: The Ministry of Defence (MOD) workforce consists of military personnel (regulars and reserves), civilian personnel and contractors. With the MOD reforming its workforce and reducing its civilian headcount, we assess its approach, progress and its transformation initiatives.


Investigation into submarine defueling and dismantling sets out progress by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to dispose of its 20 nuclear-powered submarines taken out of service since 1980. It has not yet disposed of any of these, with nine still containing irradiated fuel.


The apprenticeships programme examines the progress made by the Department for Education since we last reported on the topic in September 2016. We found that it’s not clear whether this programme is achieving its key aim of improving productivity, and there are concerns about its long-term financial sustainability.


Transforming Rehabilitation: Progress review takes stock of the Ministry of Justice’s reforms, which began in 2013. We evaluate of how well lessons have been applied in developing further reforms.


Investigation into Verify looks at the programme to use commercial organisations to verify individuals’ identity so they can access online government services. Our investigation sets out Verify’s below-standard performance, its costs and benefits, noting that it is an example of many of the failings in major programmes that we often see, including optimism bias and failure to set clear objectives.


A memorandum on the Crossrail programme sets out background information about the Crossrail programme and the current position regarding its delays and cost pressures. We will also publish a value-for-money study on Crossrail shortly, examining the underlying causes of the difficulties, the actions taken, and whether these actions are likely to be sufficient.


Oil and gas in the UK – offshore decommissioning sets out the landscape of oil and gas decommissioning to enable Parliament to consider whether the various government departments involved are protecting taxpayers’ interests effectively.


See also our Managing major projects and Commercial capability and contract management web-pages.


Other reports


National Audit Office Strategy: Our strategy 2019-20 to 2021-22 sets out how the NAO will achieve our aim of supporting Parliament in holding government to account and improving public services against a public sector backdrop of uncertainty and constant change.


Departmental overviews provide a quick and accessible view of the major government departments, how they spend their money and their major areas of work, as well as key issues such as Commercial and Contracting. Our most recent is on the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs.


Investigation into devolved funding sets out the facts about how the UK government determines the amount of funding it allocates to the devolved administrations and where the funding comes from.


Administration of Welsh Income Tax 2017-18 provides an overview of HMRC’s approach to the administration of devolved taxes before the introduction of the Welsh rates of income tax in April 2019.