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Best practice for Public Account Committees (PACs)

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Best practice for Public Account Committees (PACs)

Written by April 15 th.

The PAC is a particularly important and venerable institution of parliament. It is placed at the apex of legislative oversight of public finances. The following are recommendations that might be adopted (See download for full report):

 

v  Unless its mandate or evolving practice allows otherwise, a PAC should not question the policy underlying spending decisions.

v  A cordial working relationship between the PAC and the auditor general needs to be maintained.

v  The key witness appearing before the PAC is a department’s accounting officer, not the relevant minister.

v  The chairperson of the PAC is often selected from the opposition benches, to emphasise the non-partisan nature of the committee’s approach.

v  The focus of PAC work should be on whether spending complied with parliament’s stated intentions, and with relevant norms and standards.

v  In addition, PACs are increasingly concerned with assessing whether government obtained value for money in public spending.

v  The PAC should be engaged in a constant exchange with the auditor general to ensure that information is provided when it is needed, and in an accessible and useful format.

v  Parliaments need to ensure that their PACs are sufficiently well resourced.

v  PACs should strive to establish unanimity in decisions, even where this is not a formal requirement.

v  Committee deliberations should be open to the media and the interested public, and any exceptions from this rule need to be thoroughly justified, reasonably justifiable, and limited to exceptional circumstances.

v  Sub-committees or rapporteur systems are useful in managing substantial workloads, as long as the final discussion and decision taking authority rest with the main committee.

v  Other parliamentary committees can also be involved in the consideration of relevant audit reports, if this is done in a way that does not lead to a politicization of the audit process.

v  PACs need to carefully prioritize the content of their inquiries. While this should be done in consultation with the auditor general, the committee is entitled to engage with any aspect contained in an audit report.

v  Both members of the committee and witnesses need to be given sufficient time to prepare for a hearing.

v  The auditor general can be called upon to brief the PAC on the salient issues in an audit report before the committee, sufficiently prior to a hearing.

v  Where applicable, witnesses should have a chance to check the minutes of evidence from a hearing for accuracy.

 

v  A follow-up mechanism should exist to allow parliament to assess government’s compliance with any recommendations contained in PAC reports, for instance through an additional monitoring report by the audit institution.

Read 2945 times. Last modified on Wednesday, 15 April 2015 13:15.

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