Proposals for a Public Audit (Wales) Bill

Comments from ACCA to the Public Audit (Wales) Bill Team, Welsh Government, 15 May 2012.

ACCA welcomes the opportunity to comment on the above consultation. Overall, we support all of the governance changes that have been set out in the draft Public Audit (Wales) Bill. In our view the changes proposed will bring about stronger governance and will strengthen Assembly oversight. It will also make Audit Wales more aligned to the other audit offices such as those in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Rather than seek to address individual questions we would just like to make a number of observations that you may find helpful.

In relation to question (1) which seeks views on the new Auditor General holding office for 7 years, we would agree that 7 or 8 years is a reasonable time period to hold office. You should note that the new Auditor General for Scotland is being recommended to the Queen for appointment for the term of 8 years.

We also are very supportive of question (3) which proposes placing restrictions on the offices, employments and services a person can hold. These restrictions will help to secure complete independence and provide even stronger safeguards in respect to ethical behaviour.

We agree with the rationale for oversight by the PAC of the Auditor General for Wales, but believe that the proposals set out could potentially over burden the PAC with detailed business planning arrangements at the expense of concentrating on the scrutiny of Welsh public expenditure. In England a separate Public Accounts Commission exists to deal with NAO business planning, resourcing and oversight which mean that the Westminster PAC is better placed to concentrate on holding Government to account. This arrangement also ensures that business planning arrangements do not impinge on the Auditor General’s statutory functions and preserves auditor independence.

As a final point we agree with the establishment of the Wales Audit Office as a body corporate. In line with other devolved administrations such as Scotland these arrangements work adequately.