The Public Accounts Committee will spend a significant part of the Autumn term undertaking accounts scrutiny for the Welsh Government, National Assembly for Wales Commission, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, and the National Museums Wales.
What is Account Scrutiny?
The annual scrutiny of accounts by the Public Accounts Committee involves the consideration of the accounts and annual reports of different public funded bodies, to consider see whether there are any unusual or unclear items of expenditure of public money. In addition to looking at how these organisations spend money, the Committee also considers how they are run and whether their governance arrangements are appropriate and accountable.
Why do it?
Although this approach can appear a little dull, this is an important piece of work because it ensures that there is scrutiny of how public money is being spent. It also provides an opportunity to hold to account those tasked with the responsibility of overseeing the expenditure of public money.
Accounts and Annual reports not only provide an important snapshot of the financial health of these publicly funded organisations they also tell a story about how the organisation is being run and whether there are robust governance structures and working practices in place or not.
By undertaking this scrutiny annually, the Committee has been able to build a deterrence factor into its work, with organisations responsible for spending our money knowing they could be called before the Committee to face public scrutiny.
Does it work?
The Committee has been doing this work for a number of years now, and generally we have seen an improvement in the information available, and in ensuring that it is more accessible. In particular, many organisations have risen to the challenge of presenting this often complex information in a more understandable format.
In addition to the more general improvements, the Committee has also brought to light a number of areas of concern which have been subject to greater scrutiny and ultimately an improvement in practices – and have generated media coverage such as:
- £104k assembly cash paid into fraudulent bank account
- National Library criticised for spending taxpayers’ cash on suing company behind fire
- Big pay-offs to museum bosses criticised by AMs
- Welsh Government’s ‘avoidable’ £1.25m compensation payout
- National Library of Wales in denial about cuts, AMs warn
Why consider these bodies?
At the beginning of the fifth Assembly, the Committee agreed to consider the accounts and annual report of the Welsh Government and the Assembly Commission annually. It took this decision because the Welsh Government has an annual budget of over £15 billion, which is a significant sum of public money. While the Assembly Commission is the corporate body which provides support for the National Assembly for Wales, and its Members, (so ultimately the Committee) – and so the Committee felt it was important to not sit above scrutiny.
For 2017-18, the Committee will be considering the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Annual Report and Accounts and National Museum Wales. The Committee has previously considered the Accounts and Annual Report of these two organisations. Hopefully, the recommendations by the previous Public Accounts Committee will have helped these organisations to make improvements and there will now be a positive story to tell.
Do you have any questions you would like asked about how these organisations have been run over the last year?
Do you have any concerns about how funds have been allocated?
What question would you ask those responsible for spending public money?
Our Accounts Scrutiny starts on Monday 8 October 2018 when we look at the Accounts and Annual Report of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales and the Assembly Commission.