NHS audit committee membership rules tightened

AUDIT COMMITTEES within NHS Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups will become more independent under government plans to shake up membership rules following sweeping changes to the local audit system.

Under proposals published by the Department of Health, the audit committees of NHS Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups must have a chair who is an independent non-executive of the governing board, and must have a majority of independent non-executive members.

The proposed changes are the result of a consultation on the constitutional requirements for audit committees within NHS Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups, which took place last autumn, and follow the introduction of new public sector audit rules.

Following the dismantlement of the Audit Commission, a draft local audit bill was created as part of a new audit regime where local public bodies appoint their own auditors.

In January, the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 received Royal Assent. The Act replaces the current centralised arrangements for the audit of local bodies, and allows them to manage their own audit arrangements, with auditor panels advising on maintaining an independent relationship with its auditor.

Last year, anti-corruption group Transparency International warned that the changes may “inadvertently allow corruption to thrive” and “undermine” the independence of external auditors and constrain their ability to conduct comprehensive investigations.

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