Public Accounts Commission launches recruitment for expert audit advisor
23 September 2021
The role of the Public Accounts Commission is defined by the National Audit Act 1983 and the Budget Responsibility and National Audit Act 2011. The Commission's principal duties under the Acts are to examine the National Audit Office Estimate and lay it before the House, to consider reports from the appointed auditor of the National Audit Office (NAO), to appoint non-executive members of the NAO Board, and to report from time to time.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) and the NAO Chair provide advice to the Commission on these issues. As by statute the Comptroller and Auditor General has "complete discretion in the discharge of his functions", the Commission does not involve itself in the day-to-day running or administration of the NAO.
Background to the role
The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) currently has a statutory role to perform annual quality inspections of the National Audit Office’s audits of government-owned companies. The NAO also asks the FRC, under an agreement basis, to review the C&AG’s wider financial audit work.
The Government is currently consulting on proposals for the future of audit governance. As part of these proposals, the FRC is to be replaced by the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority (ARGA).The consultation paper includes proposals for the Public Accounts Commission to take on new functions overseeing the quality of audits conducted by the National Audit Office. This would involve the Commission examining the FRC’s (and, in future, ARGA’s) Audit Quality Review (AQR) of the C&AG’s audit work. It states:
Subject to the views of Parliament, the Government […] proposes changing legislation so that responsibility for establishing oversight arrangements over the quality of the C&AG’s financial audits moves from the Secretary of State to Parliament. This responsibility might sit best with the Public Accounts Commission on behalf of Parliament, given its existing role in relation to the National Audit Office. This change would mean that a body which is independent of Government would take responsibility for making arrangements for the inspection of NAO audits.
In practice, this will likely mean the Commission will scrutinise the conclusions of the FRC’s (and, in future, ARGA’s) AQR in a public evidence session. The Public Accounts Commission has agreed to operate the new oversight arrangements in shadow form from Autumn 2021.
The Public Accounts Commission would like to appoint an expert adviser to support the delivery of its new responsibilities for inspecting the quality of the NAO’s financial audit regime. The responsibilities are likely to evolve as the arrangements for the Commission’s oversight are piloted. However, it is envisaged that most of the adviser’s time will be spent digesting the findings of the FRC’s (and, in future, ARGA’s) Audit Quality Review, working informally with the Commission staff on technical matters, and providing written and oral briefing to the Commission.
The appointment is on a short-term basis, to cover the period of the initial pilot. If the oversight arrangements are made permanent in legislation as expected, there may be the possibility of extending the appointment on a longer-term basis.
It is envisaged that the role will constitute several days’ work on an ad-hoc basis, largely in the autumn of 2021 in the run up to and following the Commission’s evidence session on audit quality. The successful candidate will be paid a daily honorarium.
The Commission would like to hear from individuals who:
- Have expert knowledge of senior external audit;
- Are members of a recognised accountancy body;
- Have experience of auditing complex public-sector bodies of all sizes, including Government departments, arm’s length bodies and state-owned companies’ accounts;
- Are able to compare issues affecting the quality of private sector audits to those of the public sector;
- Have the ability to understand complex financial and audit information, and to communicate this in a clear and accessible manner to non-expert audiences; and
- Strong political awareness, and ability to engage with MPs and/or senior officials in a confident, authoritative and politically astute manner.
It is also vital that candidates are able to demonstrate their independence from the NAO.
The successful candidate will be someone who has sufficient time and capacity to dedicate to the role, and who is highly motivated to work proactively with the Commission staff in order to ensure the Commission’s new duties and responsibilities are executed effectively.
The successful candidate will need to be able to start in late October, and have capacity to support the Commission in preparation for an evidence session taking place in the second half of November.
To express interest please send a CV, a short covering letter and a declaration of relevant interests to the email address below. In your covering letter you should set out how your expertise is relevant to this role, and indication of the amount of time you could realistically devote to Commission work.
Your declaration of interests should include anything that a reasonable person might consider could influence the advice you give the Commission.
Expressions of interest should be sent to TPAC@parliament.uk no later than close of play on 7 October. If you have any questions about the role you can contact the Secretary to the Commission at the same address.