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27 March 2013 | Anna Reynolds
The failure of fire service purchasing body Firebuy to provide financial information before it was abolished has raised uncertainty about its accounts, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).
The government announced the closure of the non-departmental public body in October 2010, which was set up to support procurement of kit by fire and rescue services.
The NAO said Firebuy did not transfer all of its financial documentation to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and failed to prepare financial statements for the two years, 2010-11 and 2011-12, prior to the closure of the company in July 2011.
The Treasury's guidance states when an NDPB closes there should be procedures in place to gain independent assurance on key transactions, financial commitments and cash flows needed for the department and liquidators to handle the closure.
As a result, the NAO’s report found transactions and account balances that lacked sufficient documentary evidence to be verified. The spending watchdog added there were no longer any Firebuy staff to provide reasons for the transactions and adjustments the DCLG were not able to explain.
As a result, comptroller and auditor general Amyas Morse, said he could not say whether the financial statements from the periods were “free from material error”.
A DCLG spokesman told SM that Firebuy had to close and go into liquidation, therefore the purchasing body couldn’t sign off the accounts. The spokesman added the decision not to obtain the financial data was made to avoid further costs to the public purse.
In July 2010, a critical NAO study reported Firebuy had cost nearly twice as much to establish and run than the procurement saving it had claimed to deliver.