Category: Committees

Public Accounts: Making sure your money is spent wisely by Governments.

Pierhead building at sunset in Cardiff Bay

Without scrutiny of public accounts, tax avoidance such as that by Amazon and Starbucks would not have been brought to light.

It’s not just relevant to officials and auditors, it is important to everyone.

It’s following where and how your taxes are spent.

This is money spent on behalf of everyone, and this happens on a national level through to devolved administrations and regional governments to the local level. In all these instances there are elected politicians deciding how to spend our money, and it is vital that this expenditure is monitored, to ensure it is effective and efficient.

This role has earnt the Westminster Public Accounts Committee the title of ‘the Queen of the Select Committees’, and as Margaret Hodge MP said in correspondence to Gus O’Donell, (the then Head of the UK Civil Service) ‘It is the duty of the Committee to pursue fearlessly the public and taxpayers’ interest whenever and wherever we deem it necessary’.

Without this call to account, recent tax avoidance by major corporations would not have been brought into the public domain, and there may not have been an opportunity to question anybody on the failings of publicly funded projects such as the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales (RIFW).

It had never occurred to me that I might enjoy what at first sight appeared to be very dry audit work, monitoring government spend’  – Dame Margaret Hodge MP

The Senedd in Cardiff Bay

Public Accounts Network Event

The National Assembly for Wales Public Accounts Committee is excited to be hosting the inaugural public accounts network meeting.

Being a member of the Public Accounts Committee is a big responsibility, and, so as a Committee, we all want to ensure we are up to the challenge, and are doing the best we can to ensure your money is being spent responsibly.

On Monday 18th September,  will be bringing together a wide range of people with an interest in public accounts Committees, to learn from each other, develop new skills and share best practice.

There will be representatives from across the UK and further afield, to discuss how we are currently undertaking this important work, and what can be done better.

  • Dame Margaret Hodge MP keynote – What makes an effective public accounts committee? Margaret Hodge will be talking about her five years as Chair of the Westminster Public Accounts Committee, and her pursuit of reconnecting ‘Parliament with people as voters, taxpayers and citizens by giving a voice to the issues that mattered to them’.
  • Panel-led discussion – ‘A working relationship’ – The role of the Auditors in the work of Public Accounts Committees.
    Chair: Anthony Barrett, Assistant Auditor General, Wales Audit Office
  • Academic Case Study –‘Comparative effectiveness of the devolved PACs of the UK’. Helen Foster, FCA, BA(Hons), MPA, FHEA – Lecturer in Accounting – Ulster University Business School
  • The other side of Public Accounts Committee – A witnesses’ perspective
    James Price, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Economy, Skills and Natural Resources Group, Welsh Government

The full agenda can be accessed here: View Agenda

Get Involved

Feel free to send us the questions you want answered ahead of the event on anything related to public accounts, such as:

  • How Public Accounts Committees work?
  • What reports are produced by Auditor Generals or Public Accounts Committees?
  • What techniques and methods should be used to to monitor Government spending?
  • Or any questions would you ask of those responsible for spending your money.

Tweet us your questions using #SeneddPAC (click to Tweet) or email us at seneddpac@assembly.wales

We will then be able to take your questions to the event on 18 September and feed it into the discussions.

Event Booking

Venue: The Pierhead, Cardiff Bay
Date: 18th September 2017
Time: 9:30am – 16:00pm

For anyone interested in the event, there are limited spaces available for the day. To book your space contact:

Seneddpac@assembly.wales

Follow updates during the day on our twitter feed and join the conversation using #SeneddPAC

 

Enterprise, Innovation and Skills Committee: One year in – Stakeholder event

A year after its first stakeholder event in July 2016, the Economy Infrastructure and Skills (EIS) Committee invited a wide range of stakeholders back to reflect on the highlights of the year and to consider the Committee’s emerging priorities for next year.

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What happened?

On 19 July 2017, Members of the committee and stakeholders discussed how the committee has delivered its work programme and what we can do to drive things forward, in particular:

  • What were the highlights of the Committee’s first year? And what could the Committee have done better?
  • What the key trends or events over the next 12-18 months?
  • Is the timing right and is anything missing in the Committee’s initial thinking about future work?

Key themes emerging from much of the discussions were the impact of Brexit and the importance of the Welsh Government’s forthcoming economic strategy.

Thanks for the participants

Russell George AM, chair of the EIS Committee, thanked contributors for sharing their expertise. He said:

“A year after we first invited a range of stakeholders to inform us about what we should do as a committee, we wanted to hear what they thought of what we have done. And to see what they thought of some of our emerging ideas for the coming year.

”After today’s discussions, I believe that we are on the right track to develop a work programme which incorporates the views of stakeholders from across the three main strands of our remit – the economy, infrastructure and skills.”

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What happens next?

The clerking team will use the ideas and comments from stakeholders to inform a paper for the Committee to consider in September setting out priorities and inquiries for the coming year.

A Stronger Voice for Wales in a Changing Britain

You don’t have to be a constitutional expert to have your say on constitutional issues.

The National Assembly for Wales’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee has been looking at how Wales works with other Parliaments and Governments: the relationship between them, how well they work together and share ideas. By understanding current and past relationships, the Committee want to be able to recommend the best model of working for the future.

Different legislature buildings

But what sort of relationship does the people of Wales want our institution to have with other parliaments and governments?

Huw Irranca-Davies AM, Chair of the Committee will deliver a talk at this year’s National Eisteddfod focusing on what he will argue are the most profound constitutional challenges the people of Wales have faced for many generations, both as a nation – Wales – and as a family of nations within the United Kingdom. How Wales rises to those challenges will be the defining test of our generation.

The National Eisteddfod is of course a celebration of traditional Welsh culture and arts and language, but it is also a place where the identity of Wales and its people is constantly imagined and re-imagined. It is also where the politics and constitution of Wales – and Wales within the United Kingdom – have been hotly discussed and debated down the decades, on the Maes and off.

A UK which is negotiating its way out of membership of the EU. An England which is perhaps confused about its identity – or its multiple identities – and is experimenting with different forms of devolution in London and now in its grand metropolitan cities & regions. A Scotland which voted in one referendum to stay as part of the UK, with a government which toyed with the idea of a second referendum, yet has gone cool on the idea – at least for now. And the institutions of Northern Ireland in suspended animation with the threat of Direct Rule hanging over them. A Wales with a Scotland-style Reserved Powers Model finally, but with some expert commentators – and indeed the Welsh Government itself – arguing that the Wales Act in combination with the EU (Withdrawal) Bill risks rolling devolution backwards.

'Wales should not be afraid of leading the way in developing clear, succinct and understandable law'

In this turbulent, fast-changing environment, it is absolutely right to ask the fundamental question of how we ensure Wales has a strong voice right now, and a stronger voice in the future. In the midst of all the cacophony and clamour, the strongest possible voice for Wales in this union of nations is an absolute imperative.

Join us at this year’s Eisteddfod

Monday 7 August

Societies Pavilion 2

11.30 – 12.30

The Chair of the National Assembly for Wales’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, Huw Irranca-Davies AM, will talk about its ‘Stronger Voice for Wales’ inquiry.

This will be followed by an opportunity to meet Members of the Committee to talk about these issues which will become particularly important as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

Right to Buy: Here’s what you need to know about proposed changes in Wales

Do the Right to Buy schemes help tenants access home ownership or negatively impact on local communities? Should they be abolished or suspended?

These are some of the questions tenants from across Wales discussed with us as part of our investigation of the proposed law to abolish the Right to Buy and Associated Rights in Wales.

What is Right to Buy?

The Right to Buy scheme was introduced in the UK in 1980 to allow most council tenants to buy their council home at a discount.

However the Welsh Government has recently proposed changes in law that would end the Right to Buy scheme in Wales.

Their stated aim with this change is to protect the Welsh stock of social housing from reducing further, ensuring it is available to provide safe, secure and affordable housing for people who are unable to access the housing market to buy or rent a home.

We have been examining the Welsh Government’s decision to propose this law to ensure that it is in the best interests of Wales and its communities.

What do the proposed changes mean?

Under the proposed law, The Right to Buy for tenants of local authorities and registered landlords would be abolished after a period of at least one year following the introduction of the law.

Some local authorities, including Flintshire, Carmarthenshire and Anglesey have already suspended the Right to Buy scheme.

The Right to Buy and Associated Rights have already been brought to an end by the Scottish Government in Scotland, but a different approach is being taken in England by the UK Government.

The proposed law would end the Right to Buy scheme in all local authorities across Wales.

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Want to know our recommendations to the
Welsh Government on changes to Right to Buy?

Download the report »


How could the changes affect me?

In making sure that existing tenants are aware of the changes, the proposed law requires the Welsh Government to publish information on its effects before abolition takes place, and social landlords must in turn provide that information to every affected tenant within two months of the proposed law coming into force.

After a waiting period of at least one year after coming into force, all rights will be abolished. This means every affected tenant can still exercise their Right to Buy within that period, but not after.

Your views

Alongside a public consultation, a key part of this examination involved engaging and working with tenants from across Wales to help understand what the proposed changes meant for them.

By holding discussions in Cardiff, Newcastle Emlyn, Colwyn Bay, and Ynys Môn, as well as online on Dialogue and Facebook, tenants from across Wales were given an opportunity to participate, discuss and share their views and ideas on the proposed law and whether they felt improvements could be made.

Council housing should be for those in need” – Tenant, Ynys Môn County Council Tenant Participation Group

There was broad support for the proposed law from tenants and other organisations who gave evidence, and the need to abolish the Right to Buy to to ensure that those in greatest need have access to affordable homes and prevent further loss of social housing.

Having heard all of the evidence, the Committee has agreed that abolishing the right to buy will ensure that existing and new social housing stays within the social housing sector and will be available to be used for its original purpose, namely as a means of providing affordable rented accommodation for those in greatest need.

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Impact on eligible tenants and home ownership

The majority of tenants acknowledged the squeeze that people now feel in trying to access the housing market.

The average annual salary in some areas in Wales is less than the minimum salary needed to qualify for Help to Buy schemes and a number of tenants are employed through zero hour contracts.

Tenants in Anglesey said that the average salary of residents was £14,000, which was less than the minimum required to qualify for Help to Buy.

As a result, the Committee believes that it is important to raise awareness and promote understanding of home ownership schemes with tenants before the Abolition of the Right to Buy takes place.

Duty to provide information to tenants

Many tenants expressed their concerns over how this change would be communicated with tenants. There is no detail in the proposed law about how the required information should be communicated to tenants or adapted to meet their varying needs.

As a result, the Committee recommends that the Welsh Government makes the necessary changes in the proposed law to ensure that this information is communicated to tenants in the most appropriate and accessible way to meet their varying needs. The Welsh Government should test the information with tenants before it is finalised to ensure that it is fit for purpose.

“…everything requires access to social media and the net now…anything that happens now quotes a www. resource …people will be uniformed if the information isn’t accessible” – Tenant, TPAS South Wales Network

 

What are the next steps?

Now that the Committee has given its recommendations to the Welsh Government on how the proposed law can be improved, the Welsh Government will have an opportunity to respond.

Before changes can be made to the proposed law, the Committee’s recommendations will be debated amongst all of the Assembly Members who represent the people of Wales on 18 July 2017.

For all the latest information and developments you can also

  • follow the Committee on twitter @SeneddELGC; and
  • visit the Committee homepage on the proposed law.

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The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister set to meet in Bangor

The Assembly Committee responsible for scrutinising the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, will meet to examine the Welsh Government’s approach to economic development.

First Minister Carwyn Jones AM will be appearing before the Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister from 10.00 until 12.00 on Friday, 14 July in the Management Centre at Bangor University.

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For this meeting the Committee will be focusing on the Welsh Government’s approach to developing the economy in Wales.

The Committee will also discuss other topical issues with the First Minister and would welcome suggestions of issues of major importance in North Wales to raise. If you would like something to be discussed, you can suggest a topic in advance.

The economy in Wales – an overview

Ahead of the development of a new Economic Strategy for Wales later in the year, the Committee will be raising issues of key importance with the First Minister. The strategy is being developed at a point when the Welsh economy faces a number of challenges, some of which are shared with the rest of the UK and some of which are unique to Wales:

  • Wales has the lowest Gross Value Added (GVA – a measure of economic output) per person.  Wales has a lower Gross Value Added (GVA) per person when compared with the other devolved nations and regions of England.
  • Many communities still struggle with the effects of deindustrialisation, and poverty and inequality are persistent challenges.
  • The short and longer-term impacts of Brexit on the economy remain highly uncertain.

Welsh economy: in numbers

The Welsh Government has developed and published a range of high-level indicators to monitor the overall performance of the Welsh economy. The rationale behind this is to reflect the outcomes most important to the people of Wales, and to give a more comprehensive picture than a single indicator can provide.

8 Key Economic indicators

The Welsh Government has made ‘prosperity for all’ a key priority in its Programme for Government 2016-2021. Two sections of this programme contain priorities which are critical to the success of the Welsh economy:

  • Prosperous and secure – including commitments relating to business and enterprise, inward investment, employment, and the rural economy.
  • United and connected – which includes measures to establish a National Infrastructure Commission, improve roads and public transport, improve digital connectivity, and promote a ‘fair’ society.

Continue reading “The Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister set to meet in Bangor”

What’s in your medicine cabinet? The Public Accounts Committee inquiry into Medicines Management

Do you have concerns about the number of items on your repeat prescription?

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Have you experienced difficulties in getting the right medicine from a pharmacist? Have you had any problems while in hospital with incomplete drug charts meaning you got the wrong medicine?

These are some of the issues the Public Accounts Committee have been considering as part of their inquiry into Medicines Management.

With over £800 million spent on medicines and over 79.5 million medicines dispensed in Wales per year, NHS Wales uses medicine on a substantial scale. In the last 10 years there has been a 46% increase in the number of items dispensed, and in the face of this growing demand, Welsh Government is urging prudent prescribing, to optimise people’s medicines so that patients receive the best possible outcomes and so that the NHS gets value for money from medicines.

The Auditor General for Wales published a report on medicines management within primary and secondary care settings, on 15 December 2016. This looked at whether NHS Wales is managing medicines effectively, in primary care, in secondary care and at the interface between primary and secondary care. The report considered health bodies’ corporate arrangements for medicines management, such as strategic and workforce planning, the profile of medicines issues at Boards and committees, and arrangements for monitoring health bodies’ performance in relation to medicines.

The Auditor General concluded that:

  • There was scope to make prescribing safer and more cost effective within primary care;
  • There are medicine related safety risks and inefficiencies when people move in and out of hospital;
  • There are problems in hospitals with medicine storage, gaps in medicine information and frustration at delays in implementing electronic prescribing.

The Committee explored a number of these issues with the Welsh Government at our meeting in March 2017.

The Committee were concerned to find that it had taken so long to introduce electronic prescribing (this was first discussed in 2007, but is not likely to come in until 2023).

Another area the Committee felt could be improved was around developing a central system for very expensive medicines which are not run of the mill rather than each health board holding a store of the medicine.

Of particular concern to the Committee, was repeat prescriptions and whether all the medicines were being used or whether patients end up with stockpiles due to the difficulties of altering the prescription.  This is an issue as money is wasted every day through patients receiving medicines they do not really need and which may not be required. The Government explained to the Committee that this was a ‘tripartite thing’ with the patient, pharmacy and prescriber all having responsibility.

The Committee would be keen to hear your experiences around this, or any other part of medicine management –we would welcome hearing your experiences via twitter @SeneddPAC or by e-mail seneddpac@assembly.wales

Next steps:

The Committee will be taking evidence from Health Boards and Pharmacists to explore how well best practice is being shared and their response to some of the Committee’s concerns.

The full meeting held in March can be watched on Senedd TV and the transcript for the meeting along with all the written evidence received by the Committee to date can be access on the Public Accounts Committee page.  The June meeting will be available on Senedd TV.

The Right to Buy in Wales is changing

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I’m John Griffiths AM (@JGriffithsLab), the Chair of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee.

John Griffiths AM

About the Abolition of the Right to Buy Bill

On 13 March, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, Carl Sargeant AM, introduced the Abolition of the Right to Buy and Associated Rights (Wales) Bill into the Assembly. The Government’s aim for the proposed law is to protect the supply of social housing in Wales by ending all variations of the Right to Buy and the Right to Acquire.

What do the proposed changes mean?

The Right to Buy to buy for tenants of local authorities and registered landlords would be abolished after a period of at least one year after the introduction of the law. By introducing the proposed law, the Welsh Government’s stated aim is to protect the Welsh stock of social housing from reducing further, ensuring it is available to provide safe, secure and affordable housing for people who are unable to access the housing market to buy or rent a home.

Some local authorities, including Flintshire, Carmarthenshire and Anglesey have already suspended the Right to Buy scheme. The proposed law would end the Right to Buy scheme in all local authorities across Wales.

How could the changes affect me?

In making sure that existing tenants are aware of the changes, the proposed law requires the Welsh Government to publish information on its effects before abolition takes place, and social landlords must also in turn provide that information to every affected tenant within two months of the proposed law coming into force. After a waiting period of at least one year after coming into force, all rights will be abolished. This means every affected tenant can still exercise their Right to Buy within that period, but not after.

The Right to Buy across the UK

The Right to Buy and Associated Rights have already been brought to an end by the Scottish Government in Scotland, but a different approach is being taken in England by the UK Government. The UK Government has introduced its own plans to extend the Right to Buy Policy to more homes.

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The work of the Committee

The National Assembly for Wales’s Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee is a group of eight Assembly Members from across Wales who reflect the political makeup of the Assembly. Our job is to scrutinise decisions of the Welsh Government on matters within our remit to ensure they are in the best interests of Wales and its communities.

As the subject matter of the proposed law falls within the remit of the Committee, we have been asked to look at its ‘general principles’ or main aims. This is called ‘Stage 1’, and we use this part of the process to hear evidence and prepare a report making recommendations to the Welsh Government for changes to the proposed law if necessary. We have until 7 July to do this.

Getting involved

In May, the Committee intends to hold public engagement sessions across Wales to hear tenants’ views about the proposed law and the implications for them. These views will help inform the Committee’s inquiry alongside the written and oral evidence received.

If you are interested in taking part in these sessions, or would like us to visit, please e-mail celyn.cooper@assembly.wales.

A DialogueApp page has also been set up so that you can have your say on the Bill and share some of your ideas on how the Bill could be improved.

Updates

For all the latest information and developments, you can:

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