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Observations From Our Central Government Audits: 2020/21

The public sector is under significant and sustained pressure. The response to, and recovery from, Covid-19 is creating new and additional expectations on the public service, while restrictions due to the pandemic make it harder to meet those expectations. The Government is also introducing major reforms across the public sector. The public sector has responded well to this pressure. It has, for the most part, delivered what is expected of it, helped mitigate the effects of Covid-19, and actively progressed implementation of the various reforms.

This report sets out our observations from our 2020/21 central government audits. The financial statements of the Government were completed and received an unmodified audit opinion by their normal statutory reporting deadline of 30 September 2021. Completing this on time was a considerable achievement for finance teams throughout the public sector and in the Treasury, and for our auditors.

Our report also contains our findings from our Controller work in 2020/21. This year had the lowest occurrence of unappropriated expenditure than any other year this century. This is a credit to the Treasury and finance teams in government departments. Public organisations operating within the spending authority provided by Parliament is a cornerstone of our public financial management system.

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We also set out our observations about performance reporting across central government. We have concerns about how government is accountable to Parliament and the public. In a time of significantly increased public spending and rising levels of debt, Parliament and the public want to know how well the public sector is performing and whether public spending represents good value for money. We would like to see increased transparency about performance and value as a feature of the major public sector reforms currently under way.

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