Public Accounts Committee Legacy Report
On the last day of the last States meeting of the 21012-2016 term I presented the legacy report of the Public Accounts Committee. I have been proud and honoured to represent the Committee for 4 years and believe it is in a better place than at the start of the term. My speech is below.
Sir, I am pleased to present the legacy report of the PAC for this term. It is not my intention to go through the contents of the report given this late hour both in terms of the time of day and with respect to this meeting. It is a comprehensive record and members are only being asked to note it after all – and more on that later.
What I will do is focud on just 3 aspects of the report and then look to the future.
The present Committee had only just put its feet under the table when we were informed of a fraud committed against the States of £2.6m. In fact it was just a month into this term. This States has often been blamed for that event. However, sa I stated at the time the Committee published its report into the states of financial controls and risk management at the time, this was an incident waiting to happen.
Reports produced int he past, including those of previous PACs has, for whatever reason, been ignored. I am pleased that this States has acted on the findings of this PAC’s report which reflects the understanding particularly of the CM and PSD Minister of the time and the T&R Minister, in particular, as to the seriousness of the issue, as well as the pressure from the Committee to ensure our recommendations were acted upon.
Our second report on financial controls demonstrated the improvements made. However, the Committee is concerned that the focus on risk management will be lost as attention turns to public service reform. It is therefore critical that the Scrutiny Management Committee monitors developments closely.
I would no like to turn to the FTP, which has dominated much of this term. The Committee ha spent a considerable amount of time reviewing progress, or otherwise, of what was one of the most significant programmes of work ever undertaken by the States of Guernsey. The Committee took various approached in order to cover off various aspects of what was a complex area.
The Committee on a regular basis called in the T&R Minister and officers for updates as well as having a direct input on improving reporting for the Policy Council. The cost/benefit review which looked at the largest projects in the FTP acknowledged that savings has been made and found evidence of some excellent initiatives but expressed concern over some of the calculations and, more importantly whether certain savings would indeed be sustainable. And in addition, the Committee fought vociferously and successfully against the payment of commission to the consultant in respect of a transfer of £650k from general review to the Guernsey health service fund as it did not represent a saving to the taxpayer.
Finally, in relation to the FTP and subsequent to this report, the Committee held a public hearing where it questioned the T&R Minister and States Treasurer principally on the legacy of the programme and lessons learnt. More particularly on the transformational aspects.
I would like to thank the Minister for his openness at that hearing and I would recommend that the Hansard record be read by those involved in the Public Service Reform, both politicians and officers. I want to see public service reform work. I think we have a great opportunity to make it work but we need to understand lessons learnt.
Much of the Committee’s work as, by necessity, to be undertaken behind the scenes, this has included developing a more robust annual audit and accounts production process, providing greater value for money for the taxpayer as well as providing advice and recommendations which have considerably improved the States of Guernsey’ financial and resource management policies and procedures.
The last are I would like to focus on is post implementation reviews. Sir, recent headlines implied that projects undertaken by this States has been wasteful. However, I think it is important to make clear that several projects we looked at took place in the previous term and one, the airport terminal , over a decade ago. There has been a significant improvement in the management of projects since then. However, it is true that lessons do still need to be learnt and money is still being spent unnecessarily. It is for that reason that the Committee recommended that the Policy & Resources Committee in the next term look at placing PIRs in the public domain.
Before ending, I would like to leave a message for the future SMC.
- Firstly, work together as a team. It has been a pleasure working with a bunch of intelligent people who have worked together, can have robust conversations, but listen and respect each other’s views and come to a consensus. The PAC has certainly demonstrated that it can be done. We live in a consensus system and it is as important for the SMC as it is for every other Committee of the States. I just hope that continues in the next term.
- Secondly, don’t follow your own personal agenda. This will be even more important to be aware of where the whole scrutiny function is concentrated in just 3 Deputies and 2 Non-States Members; and
- Thirdly, Remember that what you want is to make government perform better. That can mean a balance between making a quick headline and working behind the scenes to make things happen. A recent report into the effectiveness of Westminster select committees in the last term stated that whist some committees took the big bang approach, they did not necessarily produce long term improvements. In fact it can lead to the bunker syndrome. A balance needs to be struck.
Sir, finally, and without wanting to make this sound like an Oscar acceptance speech, I would like to thank all those members of the Committee during this term. It has been a realtievely stable committee with changes only arising from the untimely death of Alderney Rep Paul Arditti and the departures of Deputies James and Le Clerc for an easier life on HSSD. I thank everyone for the positive contribution they have all made. I have been honoured to represent you in this Assembly.
There is an old adage that says, It should be noted that if you have something to note, then note it. Do not note that the item you wish to note should be noted. With that in mind, I ask members to note this report.