National Audit Office to investigate Unboxed festival
The National Audit Office has announced an inquiry into events held by the government’s Unboxed programme, often dubbed the “Festival of Brexit”, after The House magazine revealed it had cost taxpayers £120m but seen just 238,000 visitors.
The costs and benefits, planning and management of the festival will all be scrutinised by the NAO, an independent parliamentary body that holds the government to account by carrying out value for money audits.
In a letter to Conservative MP
Julian Knight, chair of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, the watchdog revealed that it expects to publish a “short, focused” report on Unboxed by the end of 2022.
Gareth Davies, comptroller and auditor general of the NAO, said he would be able to share further details of the proposed scope and timetable of the inquiry once planning work was completed in coming weeks.
Knight asked the NAO to launch a probe in September, following the online publication of an investigation by The House that led
MPs to accuse the government of having “squandered” £120m.
Against an initial “stretch target” of 66 million, the committee chair described the actual visitor numbers as “atrocious” and called the project a “catastrophic failure” that “massively underperformed”.
Knight said: “At a time of serious financial pain for families, questions need answering on how much taxpayers’ money has been squandered on this fiasco.”
The DCMS Committee warned in March that Unboxed – previously called “Festival UK” – was a “recipe for failure” with aims that were “vague and ripe for misinterpretation”, after the government shifted the purpose of the festival away from the original intention of celebrating Brexit.
The full story of Unboxed, “The carnival of Brexit”, is published in this edition of The House magazine.