09/03/2020 from the NAO:
Direct Line +44 (0)207 798 7906
Reference GF1231 19
Re: HIGHWAYS ENGLAND
Thank you for your email of 11 February 2020. I have considered your points ‘1’, ‘2’ and ‘3’ below. Our Freedom of Information team will respond to you separately regarding points ‘4’ and ‘5’ of your email. Your first question was about further rights of complaint. There is no external body that has specific responsibility for pursuing complaints about the NAO. This position reflects the statutory independence of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the discretion he has in the exercise of his audit responsibilities. That said, broader Parliamentary oversight of the NAO is provided by the Public Accounts Commission. The Commission is comprised of 9 MPs, including the Leader of the House of Commons and Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts. The Commission meets periodically with the C&AG and NAO Chair to scrutinise the NAO’s forward strategy and resource requirements.
Regarding the exchanges about a schedule of DCP rates – I explained in my letter of 1 1 February 2020 this was a misunderstanding. Mr Kay addressed this in his email of 4 September 2019 and again in his letter of 9 December 2019. Further, understand that Highways England has provided you with a copy of their letter to Mr Kay of 11 July 2019, setting out the position.
Turning to your question about material misstatement. My letter of 11 February 2020 confirmed that our audit involves obtaining evidence about the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements sufficient to give reasonable assurance that they are free from material misstatement. Our independent auditor’s report as detailed in Highways England annual report and accounts for 2018-19 also explains the concept of materiality and the auditor’s responsibilities. Mr Kay has confirmed that he has engaged with Highways England and will keep abreast of these matters as appropriate in the context of our audit of Highways England’s accounts and our professional judgement as to the audit work necessary to support our audit opinion.
In your email of 22 January 2020 you requested a review of our Freedom of Information Act response of 11 February 2020. We have reconsidered our response and will address the questions we consider to be requests for information we may hold. Our FOI team will write to you separately on this.
Regarding the remainder of the questions you pose in your email of 22 January 2020, I do not consider there is anything more I can add to our previous responses where we have explained our understanding and set out our position on the matters you raise.