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CCAF Discusses Effectiveness with Saskatchewan and Manitoba PACs
Sunday, 26 April 2009 20:00

Stating that “from time to time members of the Public Accounts Committee go back to school to learn what the latest thinking is in terms of reporting and accountability,” the Chair of the Saskatchewan Public Accounts Committee (PAC) welcomed CCAF representatives to a televised session of the committee on January 20, 2009.

CCAF attended the session in Regina at the invitation of the committee to discuss CCAF's research findings regarding the indicators of PAC effectiveness.

hvanmulligen lderkach wmichelson jhoward

Chair Harry Van Mulligen noted that the role of members of legislatures and parliaments in holding governments accountable is constantly evolving. He said sessions such as the one with CCAF help PAC members “improve on our responsibilities of holding the government accountable for what it is that they do.”

CCAF was represented by Executive Director Michael Eastman; Antonine Campbell, Director of Parliamentary and International Programs; and Geoff Dubrow, formerly CCAF's Director of Capacity Development. Geoff is now a Senior Manager, Assurance and Advisory Business Services, with Ernst & Young.

Saskatchewan's Provincial Auditor Fred Wendel also participated in the session.


Saskatchewan and Manitoba orientations part of national initiative

Since 2006, CCAF has met with PACs across the country to share with committee members the results of CCAF research into what makes for an effective public accounts committee. On March 18, Geoff led a similar session with the members of the Manitoba PAC.
Last September, at the joint annual meeting of the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committees (CCPAC) and the Canadian Council of Legislative Auditors (CCOLA), CCAF presented the results of a survey of public accounts committees in Canada conducted by CCAF, the World Bank Institute and KPMG. The survey focused on committee powers and actual committee practices.

The Foundation has been asked to prepare a study into the Attributes of an Effective PAC for presentation at the 2009 CCPAC-CCOLA meeting in Edmonton. CCAF's PAC Advisory Committee will review the draft of the study. The committee is composed of PAC chairs, committee clerks and researchers (see text box for membership)


Discussion in Saskatchewan touches on many issues

In Regina, Geoff presented CCAF's model for an effective PAC in the Westminster system. The model addresses such topics as committee powers, committee resources, the issuing of recommendations by the committee, the PAC's capacity to monitor the government's implementation of committee recommendations, and the role of partisanship. 
Warren Michelson
In the discussion that followed, committee members and the CCAF representatives discussed a range of issues, including:

  • The role of the Public Accounts Committee and the Provincial Auditor to review the so-called MUSH sector - municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals
  • How PACs in other jurisdictions make use of committee researchers
  • Appearances by Ministers before PACs
  • The PAC's role in reviewing performance reports.

Warren Michelson, the Deputy Chair of the Committee, asked what PACs have been doing to report to the public on committee actions. Geoff said that, beyond putting their reports up on the web and issuing news releases, few committees have made progress in this area. He suggested a PAC researcher could take committee information about technical issues and express it in terms the public would understand.


Manitoba MLAs welcome session

The discussion with the Manitoba PAC was also informative.

The Committee Chair, Len Derkach, said the session had provided an opportunity “to move ahead in ensuring that this committee becomes more effective in looking at the reports that are before us.”

Vice-chair Jennifer Howard described the session as “very useful”, and said committee members were very interested in seeing how the committee would “continue to evolve and be a constructive force for accountability in the government.”

A full transcript of the session with the Saskatchewan PAC is available on the website of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, at: http://www.legassembly.sk.ca/Committees/Public%20Accounts/Verbatim/090120PublicAccounts.pdf.