Welsh public audit Bill ‘unbalanced’, says auditor general

14 May 12

Proposals to improve corporate governance at the Wales Audit Office are ‘over-prescriptive and unbalanced’, according to the Welsh auditor general.

Proposals to improve corporate governance at the Wales Audit Office are ‘over-prescriptive and unbalanced’, according to the Welsh auditor general.

Huw Vaughan Thomas was responding to the Welsh Government’s consultation on the draft Public Audit (Wales) Bill. He said that, under the provisions in the draft Bill, the Welsh Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee would spend too much time scrutinising the WAO’s accounts and corporate affairs.

‘All this PAC activity directed at the workings of the WAO would be at the expense of scrutiny of government. It would also be disproportionate, as over 25% of PAC scrutiny time would be directed at less than 0.1% of Welsh public sector expenditure,’ he said.

The draft Bill proposes to reform and modernise the governance of the WAO and the position of auditor general for Wales. It would establish a WAO board made up of largely of non-executive members appointed by the PAC. This would provide a clear division of responsibilities between the board and the auditor general. The board would be responsible for the WAO budget, agree the auditor’s work programme and fund the auditor general’s functions.

Vaughan Thomas raised concerns that the independence of the auditor general could be constrained by the requirement for his programme of work to be agreed by the WAO board.

Such legislation for agreement may lead to significant delay in decision-making, or, worse, may lead to [the auditor general] giving way on his or her assessments that certain matters in the Welsh public sector should be examined,’ he said.

He suggested that the auditor general continue to employ his or her own staff and procure his or her own professional services. The board’s role should be one of supervision and challenge.

The consultation on the Bill began in March and closes on May 15.All a

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