Bhutan’s audit and legislative accountability measures

The formation of Bhutan’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has strengthened the country’s democratic culture by reinforcing principles of good governance, accountability, transparency and public debate, says Jigmi Rinzin, Parliamentarian of Bhutan in an essay included in a new report from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) called Breaking out: public audit’s new role in a post-crash world.

Mr Rinzin says: “Live broadcasting of PACs’ deliberations increases public confidence in the system and in legislative checks and balances. PAC members are chosen on the basis of their reputation for their integrity. MPs can add value to audit reports by applying them to their scrutiny of executive performance.

“Parliamentary discussion increases public awareness of what departments are doing and exerts additional pressure for improvement. It reviews them, questions witnesses, examines facts and figures, gathers and sifts evidence, makes recommendations and conducts follow-up on their implementation.”

The collection of essays in Breaking Out offer an upbeat reflection of auditor’s role in accountability and improving public service from Australia to Jamaica, Scotland to Uganda. The writers also speak about improving public engagement and strengthening scrutiny and public service effectiveness.

Gillian Fawcett, ACCA’s Head of Public Sector and a fellow contributor to the report, said: “As the boundaries of public audit widens, the role of the public sector will need to expand to play a more crucial role in correcting the way public money is spent and accounted for.”

“Auditor Generals around the world need to remain vigilant in their roles as guardians of public confidence through greater transparency, being clearer about the long-term consequences of decisions, identifying opportunities for improvement and always being seen as being independent and representing the public interest.”

Ms Fawcett concludes: “Auditors must intervene earlier in the processes by which money is allocated to departments. A strong argument has been made that it is only by doing this that problems can be nipped in the bud. Providing assurance in the early stage of a project can limit the administrative failures, preventing them from spiralling into significant value for money failures.”

Jigmi Rinzin concludes: “Bhutan has achieved a lot in a little time and the challenge now is to sustain momentum in combating corruption and consolidating democratic culture in the country. Parliament through the PAC must go beyond financial scrutiny to assure every programme initiated by the government brings maximum value for money.”

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