Letter: External audits enhance company reputations

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The Independent Online
Sir: I agree that demanding audits are needed to keep fraud and waste to a minimum ('Besieged by number-crunchers', 21 April). But to suggest that all audits fuel distrust among professionals misses the point that an independent external audit enhances accountability rather than replaces it.

The Audit Commission, or its appointed auditors, have recently exposed inefficiency in Lambeth, Wessex RHA and West Midlands RHA among others. But we have also helped family doctors to prescribe more rationally, significantly improving the quality of care they give their patients and potentially reducing the NHS drugs bill; helped CID officers target their work to improve their chances of apprehending criminals; identified ways in which the NHS could improve the quality of care for hospital patients by improvements in communication; and helped managers and other professionals to improve local public services in many other ways.

This work is not an alternative to 'more public, local and face-to-face types of accountability'. Rather, it provides objective evidence which can be used by councillors and non-executives to govern public bodies better, and by the electorate to hold councillors and MPs to account. This makes accountability for some of our most complex public services more effective.

Yours faithfully,

ANDREW FOSTER

Controller, Audit Commission

London, SW1

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