This article in the TES 11th January 2018
The National Audit Office has said it cannot be sure that NCTL grants have been used as they were intended. The government agency responsible for teacher training has been criticised by a spending watchdog for failing to show that taxpayers’ money has been used correctly.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) has failed to provide enough evidence that grants paid to schools and training groups had been used for the purposes intended, according to the National Audit Office (NAO). It said the body, which is responsible for recruiting and developing the school workforce in England, was taking action to deal with weaknesses in its systems, but added that the NCTL’s ability to improve its controls for the 2017-18 financial year is limited. A Department for Education spokeswoman said the use of taxpayers’ money is taken seriously and there are “strict processes in place to ensure the accurate payment of grants”.

The NCTL provides £318 million in grants, mainly for training new teachers, the NAO said, but has not provided enough evidence that grants paid to schools and training providers have been used for what they were intended. NAO comptroller and auditor general Amyas Morse said: “I have qualified my opinion on the financial statements due to a limitation in the scope of my audit of the regularity of the NCTL’s grant expenditure. “As a grant-giving agency, the NCTL is responsible for gaining sufficient assurance that grants are being used for the purposes intended. “The NCTL has not provided me with sufficient evidence that grants paid to training providers and schools were used for the purposes intended, and conformed with the legislation relevant to grant streams.”

The NAO said the NCTL obtains evidence on grant expenditure through grant returns that training providers must prepare and have certified by independent reporting accounts. “However, the NCTL has not issued clear instructions defining the procedures it expects to support the certification of grant returns”, the spending watchdog said.”As a consequence, the nature, scope and amount of work undertaken by reporting accountants is likely to be inconsistent. “In previous years, the NCTL has however carried out sufficient review and challenge of grant returns to demonstrate the regularity of grant expenditure as a result of the weakness in the design of the assurance framework.

It also said: “The effectiveness of the NCTL’s assurance framework deteriorated in 2016-17 and did not provide me with the expected level of assurance over the regularity of grant expenditure.” The watchdog said that in response to its concerns, the NCTL tested student records and found a number of issues, including that 40% of training providers tests had reported inaccurate data at training level, which can affect the amount of grant funding they are due. Of the training providers asked to support their grant claims by providing information on students, 25 per cent could not substantiate their claims to within £1,000.

The NAO added: “The NCTL are taking action to address the weaknesses in its control environment but its ability to improve controls for the 2017-18 financial year are limited. A DfE spokeswoman said: “We take the use of public money very seriously and have strict processes in place to ensure the accurate payment of grants. “The vast majority of these payments were administered correctly. “We have taken swift action to address the recommendations from the National Audit Office and its report has recognised the improvements we are making to strengthen our systems.”

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