What was your highlight in 2021?
The Public Finance Awards event, organized by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and public finance magazine in September was special for two reasons. The NAO won the Public Auditing Excellence Award for our Self-Employed and Leave Income Assistance Schemes report and was highly commended in the same category for our Covid-19 cost tracker. I was delighted that the work of our teams on the government’s response to the pandemic was thus recognized. Second, the evening was the first occasion in nearly two years to reunite with old friends and colleagues from the public finance world – it was like a giant reunion.
How did you tackle the biggest challenges your organization faces in 2021?
I was delighted when we were able to bring together for the first time in October our 150 audit trainees who joined us in 2020 and 2021. The NAO is an important trainer of new accountants and auditors and there is no doubt that the work distance seriously affects the training experience.
Formal studies and exams went well, but our interns have to work alongside more experienced colleagues to understand how the job is done in practice. They also need peer support and social interactions with other interns – these networks will prove invaluable throughout their careers.
What is your number one priority for 2022?
We will work closely with ministry finance teams to return to faster completion of high quality audited accounts. The need to take into account entirely new, risky and complex expenditure flows and balance sheet items resulting from the pandemic has necessarily delayed some annual reports and accounts this year. We aim to complete as much as possible before the summer parliamentary recess 2022.
Which historical, mythical or contemporary figure would you most like to join you for a New Year’s Eve?
I would love to hear from HG Wells on what we can expect in the 21st century. The past couple of years have had a sci-fi feel to them and his imagination was more interesting than most.