Davis backs MPs scrutiny of Audit Commission

27 Jan 00
The Audit Commission should have its own House of Commons select committee in order to give the public sector watchdog's reports more weight, it was proposed this week.

28 January 2000

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chair David Davis said the new body could mirror the relationship between his own committee and the National Audit Office (NAO). This would give the commission's reports more impact on the national stage.

At the moment, commission reports go to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, whereas the PAC bases its work on studies originating from the NAO.

Davis feared that because commission reports can affect more than one government department, their impact might be dissipated. He argued that a new committee should be established at Westminster or that even an existing one could look at the commission's work.

'When the Audit Commission reports to the DETR it loses what [impact] the National Audit Office has,' he said. 'The biggest change would be to create another PAC looking at what the Audit Commission does.'

Davis was giving evidence to the environment select committee, which began its examination of the Audit Commission on January 25.

According to Davis, a new parliamentary body could include local government representatives to help address any perceived bias in favour of Westminster.

He rejected claims that a new committee would add to the proliferation of auditors and inspectorates. He said that the current explosion in audit necessitated a new body.

'We are going through a public sector revolution,' he said. 'This is an era in which scrutiny and audit are going to be big issues.'

The government has to respond to all PAC reports. Several of these, especially on the use of IT by ministerial departments, have caused embarrassment in recent months. According to the NAO's latest figures, more than 90% of all PAC recommendations are accepted by the government.


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