Schedule 3

Part of Budget Responsibility and National Audit Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 3 Mawrth 2011.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Chris Leslie Chris Leslie Shadow Minister (Treasury) 2:15, 3 Mawrth 2011

Schedule 3 sets out the relationship between the National Audit Office and the Comptroller and Auditor General. Given that this complex architecture is being established, it was felt that a set of memorandums of understanding, codes of practice and so forth needed to be established so that the workings could be clear. The situation is becoming slightly convoluted because of the number of players involved, including the Public Accounts Committee, the Public Accounts Commission, the Prime Minister, Her Majesty, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the NAO, the chair of the NAO—Members will get the sense that this is a complex process. By and large, we can see that the code of practice that is being set up is needed.

There are a couple of points that I want to make. Paragraph 4 of schedule 3 states:

“NAO must, in such manner as it considers appropriate, monitor the carrying out of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s functions.”

Paragraph 5 states:

The Comptroller and Auditor General must have regard to any advice given.”

That is behavioural monitoring by the NAO of what the CAG does, even though the CAG is the chief executive of the NAO. I get the sense that an organisation, subordinate to its chief executive, has a monitoring role of that chief executive. There may be some circularity of accountability there, but perhaps the Minister will elaborate. For example, I do not see any reference to the role that the Public Accounts Committee or the commission might play, although they might have been more appropriate bodies to do the monitoring; that was my first point.

My second point relates to the code of practice. There are several provisions that it might cover, but the schedule mentions a provision

“restricting the public comments that a non-executive member of NAO may make in relation to the carrying out of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s functions.”

In other words, people appointed as non-executive members of the NAO will be gagged when it comes to discussing the carrying out of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s functions. I do not know what circumstances the Minister envisages. Why would we need to restrict the making of public comments by a non-executive member of the NAO? The whole point of non-executive appointees is often to provide a challenge and a level of scrutiny to ensure that there is a balanced point of view. Essentially muffling the voice of the non-executive members seems entirely counter-intuitive. That is on page 29, line 19. Those were my only two queries about the schedule.