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Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004

Accountability of certain public bodies in Wales

Section 3: Studies for improving economy etc in services

14.This section adds a new section 145A to the GOWA. Section 145A(1) of the GOWA enables the Auditor General to undertake or promote studies (including comparative studies) designed to enable him to make recommendations for improving economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the discharge of the functions of the bodies to which the section relates. Such studies may also result in the Auditor General making recommendations for improving the financial or other management of any such body or bodies.

15.The Auditor General may also undertake or promote other studies relating to the provision of services by such bodies. When undertaking such a study the Auditor General may have regard to factors such as the impact of statutory provisions on the provision of the service by the body in question. Section 145A of the GOWA enables the Auditor General to undertake forward looking studies. The power of the Auditor General to undertake or promote comparative studies is similar to the Audit Commission’s power under section 33 of the ACA. Where the Auditor General carries out such a study at the request of any person (other than the Assembly) then the Auditor General may charge that person a fee (see paragraphs 22 to 27 below – new section 93A of the GOWA). This section does not entitle the Auditor General to question the merits of the policy objectives of a body to which this section relates. The Auditor General may lay his report containing the results of the study and his recommendations (if any) before the Assembly.

16.In relation to studies under section 145A of the GOWA, the Auditor General has the same rights of access to information and documents etc. as he has in relation to audit and other examinations into the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which any person has used his resources in discharging his functions. These rights of access etc, as substituted by section 11 of this Act, are set out in section 95 of the GOWA (see paragraphs 35 to 41 below). Section 145A(4) of the GOWA requires the Auditor General to take into account the views of the Assembly's Audit Committee when deciding which studies to undertake or promote under this section. This duty corresponds to similar duties imposed on the Auditor General in relation to his value for money functions under the GOWA (e.g. sections 100 and 145).

Section 4: Studies at request of educational bodies

17.This section adds a new section 145B to the GOWA. Section 145B(1) of the GOWA enables the Auditor General, at the request of certain bodies, to undertake studies, in respect of certain educational bodies in the higher and further education sectors in Wales, which are designed to enable the Auditor General to make recommendations for improving economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the discharge of the functions of the body to which the study relates. Such studies may also include recommendations for improving the financial or other management of any such body or bodies. Section 145B(4) of the GOWA enables the Auditor General to advise the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales in relation to the exercise of certain of its functions. Section 145B(5) of the GOWA enables the Auditor General to advise higher and further education corporations in Wales on the appointment of auditors. In addition, with his agreement one or more members of his staff may be appointed, by such a corporation, to be the auditor(s) of the corporation’s accounts. This is an equivalent power to that in section 36 of the ACA which applies in respect of similar bodies in England. Section 145B(2) of the GOWA provides that the power of the Auditor General under this section does not entitle him to question the merits of the policy objectives of the body/bodies subject to the study.

Section 5: Studies relating to registered social landlords

18.This section adds a new section 145C to the GOWA. Section 145C(1) of the GOWA provides that the Auditor General and the Assembly may agree on one or more programmes of studies (including comparative studies) designed to enable the Auditor General to make recommendations for improving the economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the discharge of the functions of registered social landlords in Wales. Such studies may also include recommendations for improving the financial or other management of registered social landlords. Section 145C(4) of the GOWA provides that the Auditor General may not question the merits of the policy objectives of the registered social landlords that are the subject of the study.

19.By virtue of section 145C(3) of the GOWA, the Assembly must reimburse the Auditor General the full cost of undertaking the programme of studies under section 145C(1) of the GOWA. In relation to studies under section 145C(1) of the GOWA, the Auditor General has the same rights of access to information and documents etc. as he has in relation to audit and other examinations into the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which any person has used his resources in discharging his functions. These rights of access etc. as substituted by section 11 of this Act are set out in section 95 of the GOWA (see paragraphs 35 to 41 below). Failure, without reasonable excuse, to comply with a requirement of the Auditor General under substituted section 95(3)(a) or (b) of the GOWA constitutes a criminal offence under section 145C(6) and on summary conviction a person guilty of that offence is liable to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale. These powers are similar to those in sections 40 and 41 of the ACA except that, in respect of section 145C of the GOWA, the Auditor General has the wider rights of access to information and documents etc, referred to above.

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