Responding to COVID-19: insight, support and guidance

Scrutinising Public Accounts: A Guide To Government Finances


This guide provides an overview of the different processes for budgeting and performance reporting in central and local government, health bodies and includes key questions to ask when scrutinising government financial statements using examples based on UK public sector accounts.







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Reports have highlighted that despite improvements in government financial reporting and management information, the UK Government still does not have full accountability and transparency. While a considerable amount of information is published by public bodies, the real issue may be how understandable and accessible the information is. 

This publication’s key aim is to help the taxpayer and citizen understand terminology around public finances, the framework and systems used in the UK public sector, the information available, how and where to look to achieve greater scrutiny and accountability for public spending.

The guidance examines the different types and sources of information that are available to MPs, ministers, taxpayers and citizens to allow proper scrutiny of public spending. In addition, it explains the different terminology in laymen’s terms, uses actual examples from various public sector bodies and highlights where to look in a set of central government department’s set of accounts to pick out key areas to check. It examines other data and published reports that can help provide scrutiny and ensure accountability. 

The publication highlights the limitations of the information and gives suggestions on what could be done to improve the situation. There is a commitment to meet a transparency and open government agenda – demand will see a likelihood of that agenda being met.

This publication is only available online.

The digital, online version is available as both searchable HTML and a bookmarked downloadable PDF of the publication that can be shared throughout your organisation. 

Customers will need to register and login to CIPFA’s website to access the publication. Details of licensing arrangements for other categories of purchaser, which includes those organisations operating shared service arrangements, are available from CIPFA’s Publications Department.

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