PracticePeople In PracticePAC is ‘superficial’, says head of Scots parliament audit committee

PAC is 'superficial', says head of Scots parliament audit committee

Westminster's Public Accounts Committee is a 'rubber stamp' body and part of 'superficial' public sector audit arrangements, according to the chairman of the Scottish Parliament's own new audit committee.

Andrew Welsh, speaking to a gathering of public sector finance officers, also said there should be no restrictions on access for the C&AG of the NAO when auditing public spending.

The views come at a difficult time as the PAC attempts to get amendments to the Resource and Accounts Bill, currently going through the House of Lords, that would allow the head of the NAO greater automatic access to public bodies.

Welsh said: ‘We are determined to add real value to the commissioning of public services. The Westminster PAC far too often simply acts as a rubber stamp to the words of the C&AG.

‘Instead of this rushed superficial approach we wanted something different for Scotland, something more substantial. We are trying to ensure members of our audit committee have a firm grasp of the issues contained in public reports.’

Welsh added that arrangements in Scotland for the auditor general Robert Black would demonstrate improvements that could be made at Westminster. ‘I hope what we are doing can provide lessons for elsewhere.’

The Scots auditor general is in a unique position as his reports are provided direct to subject committees which, unlike at Westminster, have the power to initiate legislation. The committees also play a much more significant role in reviewing the Scottish Parliamentary budget.

Perhaps the greatest difference however, and one which Welsh enthusiastically crows about, is the way in which the Scottish auditor general can follow public money.

If a body is receiving £500,000 or a quarter of its income from Parliamentary funds, it is subject to scrutiny by Audit Scotland and the Parliamentary audit Committee.

The PAC at Westminster has long argued that the NAO should be able to do something similar.

Welsh said: ‘There should be no no-go area to the C&AG.’ Welsh was speaking at the annual CIPFA Scottish conference today.

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