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Audit commission scrutinises Hips

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by Gill Montia

The government has been heavily criticised by the National Audit Office (NAO) for the way in which it introduced home information packs (Hips) at the beginning of August.

Hips are now compulsory for all homes with four or more bedrooms and include, amongst other items, standard search documents and an energy performance certificate.

The NAO has carried out an investigation into the implementation of Hips, following a request by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics).

In making its enquiries, the NAO discovered that two consultants employed to work on the introduction of the scheme had conflicts of interest.

That is to say they owned shares in one of the companies bidding to run a certification scheme for home inspectors.

The Rics alerted the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to a possible conflict of interest in May of last year.

According to the NAO, the DCLG failed to take “sufficiently timely action” when concerns were raised about links between the consultants and a company called Surveyors and Valuers Accreditation.

As part of its investigations, the NAO also looked at the bidding process for organisations interested in offering the certification scheme.

The Rics maintained that it had been unfairly treated in the bidding process and the NAO agreed that communication with applicants had not been “as equal or open as it should have been”.

The NAO is now working on a wider report on Hips, which will be published during 2008/09.

This review will look at the whole process behind the introduction of the packs and will also provide an assessment of the impact of Hips on the process of buying a home.

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News posted: August 10, 2007

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