The report, “Managing budgeting in government”, states that “many aspects” of government budgeting were closely aligned with accepted good practice – particularly with regard to cost control – but that Whitehall’s approach to “prioritising resource spending, which represents nearly 90 per cent of all controllable spending, was less structured”.
In its review the NAO found that departments were initially unable to supply all of the information requested by the Treasury. Although the Treasury attempted to gather more details during the review, the scope and quality of the data varied. In particular, information on the costs and benefits of resource spending was “patchy”, which often made comparisons within and among departments difficult.
The NAO also found that the departments only weakly integrated their budgets with their corporate operational plans. Its report says: “The budgetary system encourages departments to bid for funds based on their specific needs and does not promote cross-government working.”
The NAO recommends that departments should ensure that programme monitoring and evaluation systems provide sufficient, up-to-date data on service results and value to inform judgments on resource allocation. It also wants departments to align budgets with strategy, performance and operational planning, and to ensure that departmental boards oversee progress against budgets and associated results while adhering to the Treasury’s information requests.
Amyas Morse, the NAO’s comptroller and auditor-general, said: “Good budgeting is an integral part of delivering any activity successfully… This needs more focused attention within government, particularly at a time when there is significant pressure on public spending and change across the sector.”
To access the report, visit bit.ly/VeNptk