Annual report and accounts

Most government organisations’ annual reports and accounts are published as House of Commons (HC) or un-numbered Act Papers. The Journal Office sets the requirements for these parliamentary papers. Contact the office at or call 020 7219 3361/3252.

Annual reports and accounts are usually laid and published in June and July. During these months as many as 250 reports may be produced, which means that the contractor, Journal Office, HM Treasury and National Audit Office will all be extremely busy.

Much of the production and publishing information provided applies equally to annual reports and accounts. However, these papers have additional clearance procedures, and organisations may need to check with their parent department or, if a central government department, with HM Treasury to ensure that the correct processes are followed.

You must factor in the additional clearance procedures when planning the production of annual reports and accounts. The figure below gives an overview of the key areas that organisations will need to consider in preparation for laying and publishing their report.

An image showing the stages that departments should consider when producing their annual reports and accounts


Government organisations have their own detailed project plans to produce the report and accounts – this summary highlights some of the steps involved. Government organisations may need to consider these:

  • Central departments should follow guidance from the HM Treasury
  • Ensure any standing templates are updated to reflect current guidance. Do not assume that previous years’ templates will still be correct
  • Identify and plan the National Audit Office input*
  • Executive agencies and other arms-length bodies should prepare annual reports and accounts in accordance with their governing documents, relevant legislation and directions given by parent departments
  • Executive agencies and other arms-length bodies should confirm with their parent department the timelines for approval by the permanent secretary and relevant minsters
  • Obtain a spending controls exemption to produce and publish the report and accounts
  • Combine draft text and financial information
  • Confirm whether the design and layout of the report and accounts will be managed in house or given to an external design agency or typesetter
  • Review and agree on the design and layout of the document
  • Departments must obtain and include an HC number from HM Treasury. In some cases parent departments can obtain HC numbers for other organisations. Otherwise obtain numbers directly from the Journal Office
  • Check that the presentation line in the document is correct. If the report and accounts is an HC or Act Paper ensure that it is laid under the correct piece of legislation, consult with legal advisors if there is any doubt. It is the authoring organisation’s responsibility to ensure that the laying authority is correct
  • Obtain and include the necessary publication furniture including ISBNs, print ISBN barcode, copyright and re-use  statement from the PVP contractor and submit the completed cover, title page and title verso to the Journal Office for approval
  • Liaise with external auditors to audit accounts. Bear in mind that more than one audit may take place
  • Review and manage report and accounts drafts leading up to final approval to publish
  • Ensure that the document has been proof read for typographical errors and to ensure that the correct copyright statement, ISBNs and barcode have been included before sending the document to the printers
  • Obtain final approval from relevant organisations (such as external auditors and parent department) to publish
  • Confirm how many print copies are required
  • If the publishing contractor is not being used to supply print copies, agree a print copy delivery date with the contractor. Obtain packing and labelling requirements
  • Send final print file to your print supplier
  • HM Treasury lays central departments’ annual reports and accounts. Departments should liaise with HM Treasury to ensure that copies of the report and accounts have reached the Treasury in time to meet the planned laying date
  • Executive agencies and other arms-length bodies should liaise with HM Treasury, or their parliamentary unit or that of their parent department, to ensure the report is laid in Parliament
  • Organisations without access to GOV.UK should liaise with their parent department’s digital team ahead of the laying date to ensure that the web PDF and print PDF of the annual report and accounts are published on GOV.UK promptly after laying. There should not be a long delay between laying and publication, otherwise complaints may result
  • Remember, the version published online must be exactly the same the version laid before Parliament
  • Ensure that a web-optimised and a print-ready PDF of the report, is published on GOV.UK as soon as possible after laying (Preparing parliamentary papers for publication).  Please note that some documents may have more than one web-optimised PDF and one print-ready PDF

*The NAO has prepared checklists which document all of the matters that should be addressed, where appropriate, in a set of annual reports and accounts. You or your colleagues should look at these checklists in advance to ensure that the timetables for laying accounts are not delayed because of omissions in the accounts.

The NAO has also published a two page guide on governance statements. This guide has been prepared by reviewing a number of departments and arm’s length bodies across government and drawing out some of the key messages arising from the first year implementing the governance statements. You should engage with governance colleagues to ensure that the governance statements in their annual reports and accounts adhere to best practice.

The National Archives has produced a fact sheet for annual reports and accounts covering the 2015-2016 financial year. The fact sheet highlights a number of key messages from the organisations involved in setting standards for these documents. The fact sheet is accompanied by an annual report and accounts slide pack from HM Treasury.

Annual report and accounts fact sheet (PDF, 0.11MB)

HM Treasury annual report and accounts guidance (PDF, 0.50MB)