March 7, 2023
The role of the auditor general (AG) and public accounts committee (PAC) is interdependent; it is difficult for one to be effective without collaborating with the other. PACs rely on AGs for their expertise in identifying issues and providing recommendations to improve government spending and program administration. In turn, AGs look to PACs to hold the government to account by seeking the PAC’s support for the AG’s work and ensuring recommendations are being implemented.
Here are four ways PACs and AGs can maintain a productive and collaborative relationship:
Foster mutual respect
As with any group of diverse individuals working toward a common goal, trust and respect are fundamental to the AG-PAC relationship. The AG and the PAC have a shared interest in improving the administration of government and how public money is spent. Focusing on this common purpose can allow them to maintain perspective when dealing with complicated issues. This can be encouraged through regular and open communication between them, as well as developing a clear statement of understanding on each other’s role.
Develop informal relationships
Informal meetings between AGs, AG staff, and PAC members and their support staff can help foster the relationships to their greatest potential. Some AGs use informal dinners or lunches with PAC members to establish a better working relationship. Holding a meeting between the AG and the PAC steering committee and/or individual PAC members at the start of the legislative session can also help establish the relationship.
Hold AG-PAC briefing meetings
Regular meetings between the AG and the PAC help develop a more effective working relationship. Using non-public meetings to have the AG brief the committee on its reports not only provides PAC members with a better understanding of the audits it will be looking at, but can also serve as an opportunity for PAC members to ask clarification questions, provide feedback on reports, and give the AG a clearer understanding of how their reports can best serve the needs of their PAC.
Invite the AG to attend PAC hearings
AGs generally attend PAC hearings to address the PAC and comment on their reports’ content. This allows the AG to share his or her depth of knowledge on how the audited entities function and of issues identified in the reports, in a public setting. The AG’s presence at a hearing can also help to clarify any misunderstandings or disagreements between audit findings and government officials’ perspectives, allowing members to get needed clarification on an issue.
An effective AG–PAC relationship creates a system of accountability that can strengthen public sector operations, contribute to the most effective spending of public money, and result in more accountable government.
Read our discussion paper to learn more strategies for building and sustaining effective AG-PAC Relationships.
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