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Government of Wales Act 2006

Crown status

Schedule 8: Auditor General for Wales

728.Schedule 8 makes revised provision for the office of Auditor General for Wales (“AGW”). The provisions of the schedule largely replicate the equivalent provisions in the Government of Wales Act 1998 (c.38), which are marked for repeal. However, a notable change is that the AGW is now to be appointed by Her Majesty on the nomination of the Assembly (under the Government of Wales Act 1998, there was no need for any such nomination, although the Assembly was, in practice, consulted informally).

729.Before nominating the prospective AGW, the Assembly must be satisfied that reasonable consultation has been carried out with bodies representing the interests of local government bodies in Wales (as defined in section 12(1) of the Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004 (c.23). This is because of the AGW’s functions in relation to those bodies. For instance, under the Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004, the AGW appoints the auditor of the accounts of those bodies, and has functions under the best value regime created by Part 1 of the Local Government Act 1999 (c.27).

730.Paragraph 2 deals with the tenure of the AGW. The length of the appointment is not to a specified age or for a specified term, but is set by Her Majesty when she appoints the AGW. The AGW can resign, by requesting Her Majesty to be relieved from office. Her Majesty can also relieve an AGW from office if She is satisfied that the AGW is medically incapable of performing the functions of the office (and also incapable of asking to be relieved of it). In addition, Her Majesty may remove a person from office as AGW on the grounds of misbehaviour. This cannot be done, however, unless the Assembly has resolved that a recommendation to this effect should be made to Her Majesty. The resolution must be passed by at least two thirds of the total number of Assembly Members (not merely two-thirds of those voting on the motion).

731.Paragraph 3 protects the independence of the AGW, providing that neither the Assembly nor the Welsh Assembly Government can direct or control the manner in which the AGW exercises the functions of the office.

732.Paragraph 3 also provides that the AGW is not to be regarded as a Crown servant, other than for the purposes of the Official Secrets Act 1989 (c.6).

733.Paragraph 4 provides that the AGW is a corporation sole.

734.Paragraph 5 deals with the process for sealing documents by the AGW.

735.Paragraph 6 provides for the AGW’s salary, and the Assembly’s contribution to the AGW’s pension provision, as well as the pensions of former AGWs, to be charged on the Welsh Consolidated Fund (that is, these amounts will be governed by the terms of appointment of the AGW and will not be subject to annual approval by the Assembly in Budget resolutions tabled by the Welsh Ministers).

736.Paragraph 7 makes provision regarding staff of the AGW. These provisions are closely based on the equivalent ones in the Government of Wales Act 1998, which are to be repealed.

737.Paragraph 8 is also closely based on equivalent provisions in the Government of Wales Act 1998. It deals with the ability of the AGW to delegate the exercise of functions to members of staff or persons providing services to the AGW. In both cases, the AGW’s authorisation will be needed. Such a delegation does not affect the responsibility of the AGW for the manner in which that function is exercised. The AGW cannot, however, delegate the function of certifying or reporting on accounts which are required to be laid before the Assembly, unless the Presiding Officer has certified that AGW is unable to do this in person. Even if the Presiding Officer has so certified, the delegation ceases when the office of AGW falls vacant; the expectation would be that the new AGW would exercise the remaining aspect of the function in person, once appointed.

738.Paragraph 9 (1) provides that any compensation for breach of a function by the AGW is to be charged on the Welsh Consolidated Fund (i.e. is not to be subject to the approval of the Assembly in a Budget resolution).

739.Sub-paragraphs (3) and (4) provide that income which the AGW has earned through the exercise of functions related to local government in Wales is to be retained by the AGW and ploughed back into carrying out those functions (rather than paid into the Welsh Consolidated Fund or being available for the AGW to use for other purposes).

740.Paragraph 10 continues provision made in the Government of Wales Act 1998 for the AGW to be able to borrow money in order to cover a short-term deficit in funds.

741.Paragraph 11 deals with the AGW’s powers to charge fees, which are equivalent to existing provisions in the Government of Wales Act 1998.

742.Paragraph 12 sets out the process whereby the AGW seeks annual funding for his or her Office. This largely replicates provisions of the Government of Wales Act 1998 which are to be repealed; the only change of substance is that the Audit Committee of the Assembly is now able to make modifications to the AGW’s estimate without reference to the Secretary of State for Wales. The Audit Committee must, however, consult the AGW before laying an estimate containing such modifications before the Assembly.

743.Paragraph 13 imposes obligations on the AGW in relation to preparing accounts.

744.Paragraph 14 deals with the auditor of the accounts of the AGW.

745.Paragraph 15 sets out the time-scale within which the AGW’s accounts must be audited, and also the auditor’s rights of access to documents and information.

746.Paragraph 16 provides that the Accounting Officer for the Wales Audit Office is the AGW (“the Wales Audit Office” means the AGW and members of staff). Provision is also made for the appointment of a temporary Accounting Officer.

747.Paragraph 17 sets out the AGW’s rights of access to documents, information, assistance and explanation for the purposes of the AGW’s functions under the Act . These replace the equivalent provisions of the Government of Wales Act 1998.

748.Paragraph 18 provides that, where the Welsh Ministers have the power to appoint the auditor of a person or body, they can appoint the AGW to be that auditor , even where the AGW would not meet the normal criteria for that position. (But the Welsh Ministers cannot appoint the AGW to audit his or her own accounts). There is also provision for the AGW to audit accounts or carry out value for money examinations under a tripartite agreement between the AGW, the person or body in question, and either the Welsh Ministers or a Minister of the Crown. Further, paragraph 18 provides that where a function of preparing accounts is transferred to the Welsh Ministers by Order in Council under section 58 of the Act , the Secretary of State may by order transfer to the AGW any function of the Comptroller and Auditor General in relation to those accounts.

749.Paragraph 18 (8) deals with the AGW’s functions in relation to information provided to the Treasury for the preparation of Whole of Government accounts under section 10 of the Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000 (c. 20).

750.Paragraph 19 replaces the equivalent provisions of the Government of Wales Act 1998 in respect of the AGW’s power to report to the public on any matter coming to the AGW’s notice while carrying out the AGW’s functions. This power of report does not apply where the AGW is carrying out a function at the request of, or by agreement with, the person or body in question. Such reports must be laid before the Assembly.

751.Paragraph 20 replaces the equivalent provisions of the Government of Wales Act 1998 in respect of the AGW’s duty to certify certain claims, returns, accounts and calculations at the request of defined public sector bodies in Wales.

752.Paragraph 21 sets out the ancillary powers of the AGW. Again, these replace the equivalent provisions of the Government of Wales Act 1998.

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