PAC chair calls for scrutiny of private firms

2 Dec 99
The National Audit Office should be granted greater powers to inspect private companies undertaking public sector contracts, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, David Davis MP, said last week.

03 December 1999

Renewing his call for 'vital new powers' for the NAO, the outspoken Tory MP warned of an increasing amount of government work being carried out by the private sector and removed from automatic Parliamentary scrutiny.

Speaking during a House of Commons debate on the work of the Public Accounts Committee, Davis signalled his intention to push for an amendment of the Government Resources and Accounts Bill which would allow the NAO to investigate non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) and private companies.

He said: 'Auditors should have the same rights of access as government. In that way, the ability of Parliament to scrutinise the activity of government would be protected, whatever mechanisms are used to deliver public policy.'

He added: 'It cannot be right that the comptroller and auditor general wastes valuable time and effort arguing for access on a case-by-case basis, subject to a department's whim.'

The NAO said Davis was looking for 'a very narrow extension of powers'. A spokeswoman said: 'We are concerned that functions should not be taken outside the public sector and public accountability process. We would like to see powers written into every government contract which would allow the NAO to look at the publicly funded aspects of work undertaken by private companies.'

At the moment, each case is negotiated on an individual basis. The spokeswoman added: 'We have had no problems with access but we must negotiate each time, and it is a matter of bureaucracy which we would like to remove.'


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