Committee Takes Stock of Four Years Oversight

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 24 March 2011

Reference: PAC 10/10/11

Fifty six inquiries and reports have been completed by the Northern Ireland Assembly Public Accounts Committee since devolution in 2007, examining issues as diverse as the Bangor to Belfast Railway upgrade, control of bovine tuberculosis and the recent report on measuring the performance, procurement and governance of NI Water.

Reflecting on the performance of the PAC, Chairperson Paul Maskey MLA said: “The PAC is in a unique position within the Assembly. Our role is to investigate the way that Government departments, arms length bodies and non-governmental agencies conduct their business to ensure that the public is receiving value for money.

“Looking back over the past four years I am particularly proud of the way that the Committee has conducted its activities. One of the most notable achievements is that all of us—no matter which party we are part of—have left our political affiliations at the door of the Committee room. We have investigated a large number of high profile cases and we have often needed to take both Departments and bodies to task for their lax procedures and non-adherence to best practice.

“Many senior officials have been asked to give evidence before my Committee—and these usually represent the worst examples of financial management in the public sector. We also must keep perspective on this matter. The Comptroller and Auditor General’s Office, which prepares audits in public sector, shows that 95% of these audits are satisfactory. The other 5%, some of which we then investigate are in a small minority.

“In the current context of cuts to public services, the Public Accounts Committee will need to be even more vigilant to ensure that standards in public audit are maintained and spending decisions can be fully justified and demonstrated.”

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