Attending a one-day Public Accounts Committee (PAC) network event hosted by Tynwald provided a valuable opportunity to ‘shine a light on accountability in government’ said Adam Price AM, a PAC member for the National Assembly for Wales.
Mr Price made his observation during the event held on Friday September 14 which brought together some 40 delegates. These comprised chairs and members of PACs, clerks, auditors-general and audit office staff from around the British Isles and devolved assemblies, as well as from Malta and Ukraine, together with the Public Sector Director of the Institute of Chartered Accountants and officials from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, to examine the theme: ‘Making an Impact’.
Mr Price, who chaired the session ‘How do the remit and powers of the PAC affect its impact?’ said: ‘It was useful to be able to drill down in some detail and to share best practice. There was a real free flow of information and opportunities to learn from other jurisdictions and note our similarities and differences.’
Audit director for Audit Scotland Antony Clark was one of three delegates who presented a case study for the session titled: ‘What work has the highest impact and why?’. He said: ‘It was a brilliant event where the bigger jurisdictions could learn from the smaller ones and vice versa. We all share common issues, but handle them differently and it was interesting to hear the views of the parliamentarian from Ukraine, budget committee member Yuri Levchenko MP. The sessions highlighted the challenges everyone involved in public accountability faces and what emerged strongly was that while it’s one thing for PACs to make an impact, it’s quite another to be able to demonstrate that impact.’
PAC clerk to the Northern Ireland Assembly Ms Lucia Wilson, who also presented, said: ‘To be able to meet with representatives from so many jurisdictions, including Ukraine and Malta, made for a special event. What emerged for me was that we may be dealing with similar issues but a major difference is the level of resources available. Balancing the need for accountability with budgetary constraints will always be a challenge. PAC impact is about going beyond the final report, ensuring that lessons are learned and that those lessons contribute to shaping future decision-making processes.’
The Speaker of the House of Keys and Tynwald PAC chairman the Hon Juan Watterson SHK said: ‘It is always a pleasure to showcase the Isle of Man to visitors and talk about the excellent work Tynwald and its committees do with a very small number of staff. We have certainly done a lot with very little, and the Members can feel a sense of achievement in dealing with issues previously considered “too difficult”.
‘However, a notable exception to the attendee list was Tynwald’s own Auditor-General, which has never been appointed. There is no doubt that this deficiency is the biggest impediment to the Tynwald PAC having a greater impact in driving value for money throughout the public service.’
Photo of PAC network event delegates outside the Legislative Buildings courtesy of Paul Dougherty, Tynwald Seneschal