The 2nd day of our delegation interactions in Westminster was adorned by two special meetings, that with the Speaker of the House of Lords Baroness D’Souza and the Speaker of the House of Commons Rt. Hon. John Barcow, but more of that later.
Mr David Goldsbury briefed us on the functioning of the National Audit Office (NAO) that is similar to our Auditor General’s Office. The NAO exists since the 14th century in different forms and is headed by the Controller and Auditor General (C&AG). The current chief was CEO of Price Waterhouse Cooper and took a big cut in his income to join this prestigious position. The other interesting details are as follows:
- The previous C&AG Sir John Bolt was an honest person but after more than 10 years in service a newspaper leaked that he has expensive (£ 100-200) lunches on exchequer expense. There was a public out cry that a person who should be controlling expenses in all govt. departments himself is found wanting. He resigned. You can Google all the details on him.
- We are experiencing a similar case in Pakistan where an investigation was carried out on an allegation made in public against the Auditor General of Pakistan. The accusation was that the Auditor General had taken a higher pay than what was allowed, and that he took car monetization allowance every year but continued to use government cars. A sub-committee was constituted of 2 MNAs to investigate the matter. Mr Junaid Anwaar and myself (the two members) investigated and prepared a report that was submitted to the full PAC as well as the speaker of NA. As it is confidential I would not be able to comment on it.
- Interestingly the new C&AG in UK brought the corporate culture into the department and actually closed down all separate office rooms. Hot seats were created where anybody can bring his laptop (secured, not taken home, cant connect to internet) and start working. For everybody…. not a separate office for any executive. There was a lot of resistance but there is no private space in the building.
- The NAO scrutinizes 100% of ministry accounts and then prepares 60 reports every year to submit to PAC for examination. It also looks at Value for Money (VFM) spent but does not comment on policy (merits of the project).
- Occasionally it does look at gross losses incurred for example in privatisation of BBC where banks doubled their money in a single day, and it is presumed that the government lost £ 700 million.
- NAO looks at government revenue departments and expenditures which come to almost £ one trillion. In Pakistan PAC examines only the expenditure side and does not look at the revenue side e.g. FBR and IT departments.
The Speaker of the House of Lords Baroness D’Souza hosted lunch for us in the House. On the table there was a discussion on the Middle East situation and I expressed the fact that the West has dabbled very irresponsibly in the region and did not learn anything from Vietnam. The following sequence of measures imposed on the Middle East have made the West and Israel more insecure. Iran-Iraq war, war on Iraq after Kuwait, 9/11 reaction WOT on Iraq, WOT in Afghanistan, overthrowing of Morsi in Egypt and destabilization in Syria.
The day closed with a meeting with Rt. Hon. John Barcow the speaker of the House of Commons which on his request was attended by only three MNAs, the speaker of NA, Mr Mahmood Khan Achakzai and myself. It was a cordial half an hour discussion on the functioning of the House of Commons and NA in Pakistan.
Dr Arif Alvi