26 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: Agencies late in spending reports

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The United Kingdom Treasury has warned MPs it is likely to miss its anticipated publication date for the next Whole of Government Accounts (WGA) snapshot of public spending.

This follows two-thirds of the bodies that contribute to the round-up missing the deadline for filing their figures.

The admission comes after concerns from Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that Treasury was suffering from “optimism bias” in relation to plans to publish the 2020-21 WGA by the end of March and the 2021-22 WGA just eight months later.

Director General for Public Spending at the Treasury, Cat Little told Chair of the PAC, Dame Meg Hillier new problems with the Department’s OSCAR II database had emerged that made hitting the March deadline “unlikely”.

She said discussions about what a realistic timeline might be were continuing.

“New system capacity issues have emerged over the summer months and at times some entities have had difficulty in accessing and using the system,” Ms Little (pictured) said.

Departments use OSCAR II to submit data to the Treasury.

“These performance issues have impacted all processes that use OSCAR II and have not been isolated to WGA; they are different to the WGA-specific problems that we faced in preparing the 2019-20 WGA which have not re-emerged this year,” Ms Little said.

“In light of the performance issues, we moved the data submission deadline back from 31 August to 30 September,” she said.

“System performance has improved over the last month but we continue to monitor it closely.”

The WGA brings together spending data from around 10,000 organisations, including Government Departments, National Health Service bodies, Councils and schools.

The Director General said only a little over one third of the entities that feed into the WGA had submitted their accounts by the 30 September deadline and acknowledged that problems with OSCAR II were not the only issue.

“A number of Departments have notified us that they will not be able to submit audited data until the end of October, which is of course disappointing, and we are engaging with them to expedite their returns,” she said.

London, 19 October 2022

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