Published: 19/09/2002, Volume II2, No. 5823 Page 9

The Audit Commission is regrouping and concentrating on local audit after losing its value for money work to the proposed Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection.

Controller Sir Andrew Foster said this week that the commission would still have a major role in health.

'This is one of the biggest financial audits in the country, ' he said.

'We are retaining a very substantial role. It is the lion's share of [our] work.'

Audit Commission head of health Peter Wilkinson was confirmed in post this week. He said that in the coming months the commission wanted 'a significant contribution to make CHAI as effective as possible, as quickly as possible'.

In the longer term, the commission will concentrate on the work of its 50 local offices. They do individual audits that could inform the work done by CHAI on value for money. Just how this would happen has yet to be determined.

The Audit Commission employs about 30 people on its value for money health work and their future is as yet unclear. It may be possible for some to transfer to CHAI.

Much of the commission's routine audit work is carried out by major private audit firms, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Sir Andrew stressed the independence of his organisation, and predicted a battle in Parliament over the extent of CHAI's independence. Primary legislation is required to establish the new body.

The commission has not only lost its value for money work in health, but is currently in negotiations with government about its local authority housing audits.

These could transfer to the Housing Corporation, which audits registered social landlords.