Tuesday, 13 March 2012

NR public or private - PAC weighs in

This from today's Public Accounts Committee report into Reducing costs in the Department for Transport...

It is unacceptable that Network Rail is not directly accountable to Parliament and not subject to National Audit Office scrutiny.

Network Rail spends billions of pounds of public money each year, , its debt of over £25 billion is underwritten by the taxpayer and international accounting conventions show that it should be considered as part of the public sector.

Yet the Department continues to hide behind the Office for National Statistics classification of Network Rail as a private company which keeps Network Rail's debt off the public balance sheet and its spending from direct NAO scrutiny. We also note that an additional £950 million borrowing through Network Rail formed part of the Government's plans in the Autumn Statement, further undermining the Department's argument that it is an "essentially private sector" company.

As we have previously recommended the Department should provide the Comptroller and Auditor General with full access to Network Rail so that Parliament can scrutinise Network Rail's value for money.

No doubt last month's decision by the Captain of Netball to over-rule NR's Management Incentive Plan will allow the ONS to resolve this particular anomaly...

UPDATE: This from Captain Deltic...

Given that DfT can't or won't provide me with a simple spread sheet of current franchise/premium profiles in existing franchise agreements I think the PAC is barking up the wrong tree.

A quick call to ORR should provide more financial data than the geekiest of NAO wonks can handle.