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Accountability in Action: Good Practices for Effective Public Accounts Committees

Accountability in Action: Good Practices for Public Accounts CommitteesWe are excited to share with you our newest research publication, Accountability in Action: Good Practices for Public Accounts Committees.

This publication supports the crucial role that Public Accounts Committees play in holding governments accountable for delivering high quality public services and managing public resources responsibly. It is designed to empower and motivate oversight committees of all sizes and means to be as effective as possible.

Accountability in Action was researched and written by Dr. Lesley Burns, the Foundation’s Director of Oversight. It builds upon our previous research publications and draws upon new global research on existing good practices. The Foundation’s expert Oversight Advisory Group, which includes current and former PAC Chairs, legislative auditors, academics, and legislative committee support staff, played a key role in producing the document, setting direction, providing substantive input and ultimately endorsing the publication for release. Dr. Rick Stapenhurst, Foundation Associate and global Parliamentary expert, called it “top-notch research by Dr. Burns and the Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation,” adding, “This raises the bar globally.”

In the Westminster parliamentary system of accountability, Public Accounts Committees play a crucially important role in holding government departments and agencies publicly accountable for correcting deficiencies and implementing recommendations identified by the legislative auditor, and for executing policies and programs in accordance with the legislature’s intentions. John Reed, President and CEO of the Foundation, highlighted the good work that PACs perform, “The bottom line is that when members of PACs work collaboratively together, they can help to improve services for citizens.”

Accountability In Action – Infographic

Accountability in Action provides a solid base of good practices for PACs and it provides measurable indicators that support PACs’ efforts to conduct a baseline assessment of each good practice and to track their progress. The Honourable Kevin Sorenson, Member of Parliament (Blackfoot-Crowchild) and Chair of the federal Public Accounts Committee, had this to say: “This is a great piece of work! It is both aspirational and inspirational and I believe it will help our committee.”

Public Accounts Committees exist federally, in the provinces and territories, and in many Commonwealth countries. Accountability in Action reflects their practices and experiences and also the input of legislative staff and Canada’s legislative auditors. It recognizes that PACs have different resources and capacities and that different paths to effectiveness are possible. David Christopherson, MP (Hamilton-Centre), Vice-Chair and currently Canada’s longest-serving member of the federal PAC, called it “the new gold standard for Parliamentarians and Public Accounts Committees in Canada and equivalent bodies around the world.” Alexandra Mendès, MP ( Brossard – Saint Lambert ) and Vice-Chair of the federal PAC, noted, “This is Canada at its best. I will proudly share this with Parliamentary colleagues around the world.”

The Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation is a premier research and education organization dedicated to strengthening public sector audit, accountability and oversight. Through our guidance materials and workshops, and with ongoing financial and in-kind support from Canada’s legislative auditors, we help Public Accounts Committees be as effective as possible. Accountability in Action will be the basis of the Foundation’s future capacity-building programming for oversight committees in Canada and internationally.

We hope you will find this a valuable resource for years to come.