Auditors to gain access to BBC books

By staff

The National Audit Office (NAO) is to gain full access to the accounts of the BBC for the first time, it emerged today.

Following weeks of negotiations between the department for culture, media and sport and the BBC authorities, it will be announced at the Lib Dem conference today that the NAO will be allowed to scrutinise the entirety of the Corporation’s finances.

The watchdog is responsible for auditing public services and government departments to ensure value for money for the taxpayer.

Previously, it has only had access to BBC accounts with permission from the BBC Trust, though it now seems that the NAO will have largely free access, though the details remain unclear.

In particular, the salaries and expense of the BBC’s ‘top talent’, a thorny issue for the corporation, may yet be precluded from the auditors’ grasp, or at least from their publications.

The coalition government has made a concerted attempt to open up the BBC to full public accountability in its spending and personnel, with a great deal of disquiet over the workings of the broadcaster, particularly on the Conservative benches.

The media secretary Jeremy Hunt has argued for the freezing of the licence fee and the publication of top BBC salaries.

It is understood that the NAO will continue to publish its findings on the BBC’s finances only through the BBC Trust, rather than directly to parliament, as is the case with the watchdog’s other auditing arrangements.