A viable committee system is the cornerstone of the modern legislature and essential for performing core legislative functions. Across the Commonwealth, the Public Accounts Committee in particular is one of the principal vehicles to hold the Executive to account for its use of public money. PACs are intended to scrutinise expenditure by the Executive to assess whether funds have been used efficiently and effectively, and to monitor associated public service delivery.
Yet, PACs remain weak and ineffective mechanisms for accountability throughout much of the developing world, and they are consistently identified as the weakest links in public financial management systems.
The 2nd Westminster Workshop on The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), organised jointly by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) UK Branch, the National Audit Office – UK, and the Commonwealth Secretariat on 12-15 March 2012, brought together a broad and diverse group of parliamentarians from across Commonwealth countries involved in PACs as Chairs, Members and staff, as well as members of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs), to develop a collective understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of current approaches to holding the Executive to account for public expenditure and to explore key features and strategies that can be useful in helping them enhance their capacity and effectiveness in their respective parliaments.
This report seeks to highlight some of the main points and key messages that emerged from the workshop proceedings, as well as some issues that need to be further explored, and, drawing from that analysis, to highlight areas of potential fruitful engagement of the Commonwealth Secretariat to help build stronger and more effective PACs.