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Food Standards Act 1999

Schedule 4: Accounts and audit

197.This Schedule sets out the arrangements for the Agency’s accounts and audit.

198.As a UK Government department, the Agency will automatically be subject to the requirements of the Exchequer and Audit Departments Acts, under which it is required to produce appropriation accounts for Parliament in respect of monies voted to it by Parliament, which are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General. However, section 39 of the Act provides for the Agency to receive money not only from Parliament but also from the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales, and Northern Ireland Assembly. The Agency must be able to account to those bodies for the expenditure of the money provided by them, and as this is not covered by existing legislation, specific provision is made here. In addition, section 35 states that the Agency is to be treated as a cross border public authority for the purposes of section 70(6) of the Scotland Act 1998. This means that the arrangements for accounting to the Scottish Parliament may not be made in Scottish legislation, and therefore provisions are included here for accounts to be made to the Scottish Parliament.

199.Paragraph 1 defines the relevant authorities and bodies with an interest in the Agency’s accounts (i.e. the devolved administrations and the Treasury, and the devolved legislatures and the House of Commons).

200.Paragraph 2 states that copies of the appropriation accounts, which the Agency is already required to produce for Parliament by virtue of the Exchequer and Audit Departments Act 1866, must be sent to the relevant authorities for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, who will present them to the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly as the case may be. This is so that they are informed of the overall financial position of the Agency – final scrutiny of the appropriation accounts remains the task of the House of Commons, through the Public Accounts Committee.

201.Paragraph 3 deals with the Agency’s accounts for the expenditure of the sums provided by the devolved authorities in accordance with section 39 of the Act (this includes income from statutory charges imposed in their areas). The relevant authority for each of the parts of the UK may direct the form of the accounts for their part of the UK but must first consult the Agency and the other relevant authorities. The purpose of this is to achieve consistency between the form of accounts provided to each body, thereby assisting in the preparation of the consolidated accounts (see below). The accounts will be audited on behalf of each of the devolved legislatures by the Comptroller and Auditor General. Audited accounts must be sent to the relevant authority whose money they concern, which will present them to its legislature for scrutiny. Copies of the accounts are sent to the other devolved authorities and the Treasury, and these bodies must present them to the other legislatures and the House of Commons, essentially for information.

202.Paragraph 4 provides for consolidated accounts to be prepared in a form directed by the Treasury after consulting the Agency and other relevant authorities, and send them to the Comptroller and Auditor General to be audited and laid before the House of Commons. The consolidated accounts will bring together into a single document all the parts of the UK Agency’s accounts in order to give Parliament a view of its overall financial position. Again, copies of the accounts are sent to the devolved authorities for presentation to the devolved legislatures for information.

203.Paragraph 5 deals with trading accounts produced under section 5 of the Exchequer and Audit Departments Act 1921. So far as the Agency is concerned, it is envisaged that this provision will be the basis for the separate Meat Hygiene Service accounts. Since the Meat Hygiene Service will operate across GB, the Treasury is required to seek the consent of the other relevant authorities and consult the Agency before directing the form of these accounts. However, it is not necessary to seek the consent of any relevant authority not affected by the operations in question (i.e. Northern Ireland is not involved since the MHS does not operate in Northern Ireland).

204.Paragraph 6 ensures that the Comptroller and Auditor General has the power to make reports to the devolved bodies for the purposes of value for money audit under the National Audit Act 1983.

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