The Department for Education's top civil servant has been summoned to face MPs over concerns about his department's “struggle to get its act together” over its finances.
The Commons Education Select Committee's concerns came today after the department had to extend the 31 January deadline for laying its accounts before Parliament.
But officials at the DfE have used a statutory instrument to give themselves an extra three months.
The move has led Neil Carmichael, who chairs the education committee, to summon the DfE’s permanent secretary to explain the reasons for the delay.
“Government departments have 10 months to get their accounts in order and laid before Parliament for proper public scrutiny, and most manage with far less," the Conservative MP said.
"Slipping out a statutory instrument to extend the deadline on the last possible day is further evidence of DfE’s struggle to get its act together on financial matters.
“The Committee agreed in December to invite the permanent secretary to explain the department’s plans for academy accounts. Today’s events leave us with no alternative but to consider the wider question of financial management at the DfE.”
According to Mr Carmichael’s office, most departments’ annual reports and accounts are submitted before the summer recess in July.
The only instance of the statutory deadline being extended for a government department was for the Department for Culture, Media and Sports in 2011/12. The London Olympics were cited as a major reason for this delay.
A DfE spokesperson said: “The consolidation of thousands of academies’ accounts is one of the largest procedures of its kind carried out in the UK. Throughout this process the National Audit Office (NAO) has found no material inaccuracies in the accounts.
“As part of the audit of the 2014-15 accounts, the NAO has requested some additional work. This will mean that the accounts will be laid later this year. We continue to work with the NAO the Treasury and Parliament to find a sustainable approach to reporting on the finances of academies.”