The Scrutiny of Government Expenditure in the UK

The Role and Management o
of the Scrutiny Unit
Jessica Mulley, Head of the Scrutiny Unit
June 2013
Scrutiny Unit
• Established in 2002
• Part of the Commons Committee Office Directorate
• Staff skills now include Parliamentary procedure, Scrutiny
management, Accountancy and auditing, Economics,
Statistics, Legal and legislative analysis, Administrative
• Works in partnership with Select Committee Secretariats
and Department for Information Services
Why we were set up
 To strengthen the scrutiny role of the House,
 Financial scrutiny
 Pre-legislative scrutiny
 To fulfil commitment to more specialist staff for
select committees
 to support common objectives for select committees
(which include scrutiny of spending and
Supporting Select Committees - overview
• Liaison Committee agreed core tasks:
– Examine Departments’ spending plans and spending
– Examine objectives, targets and outcomes
• Scrutiny of Government finances and performance
• Scrutiny of legislation
• Support Joint Committees (with House of Lords)
– Scrutiny of Draft Legislation
• Supports Public Bill Committees
– Scrutiny of Bills
– Policy support & evidence taking (sometimes)
– Administrative Support (always)
Supporting Select Committees in practice
Briefing Committees (private sessions)
Staff Training
Written guidance, website and booklets
Discussions with Government (e.g. Treasury) on
improving information given to Parliament
Providing advice to Liaison Committee on proposals for
change (e.g. Alignment, mid year reports)
Inquiry management support
Pre-Legislative Scrutiny
Post-Legislative Scrutiny
Legislative Scrutiny
• Draft Bills:
– Procedural, legal, research and other specialist advice
and administrative support for ad hoc Joint
Committees (in partnership with the House of Lords)
– Specialist advice and assistance to Departmental
Select Committees in scrutinising draft bills
• Public Bill Committees:
• Coordinates evidence-taking sessions incl. receipt and
circulation of written submissions
• Arranging or providing briefing for Committee
members for any oral evidence sessions
Financial scrutiny- what Scrutiny Unit does
• Analyses financial documents
• Prepares briefing notes and written questions
• Briefs committees orally, answers their questions or gives
• Works with Committee teams
– on briefing and questions to Ministers on financial
matters for hearings
– on financial and economic aspects of inquiries
including writing reports
Committee Support (regular financial events)
Scrutiny Unit support includes
• Establishing facts:
– what money is being spent on
– Identifying changes in spending and trends
• Questioning can cover
– Strategy and option appraisal
– The value added by the spending and value for money
– Delivery and implementation, capacity etc
– Monitoring and outcomes
– Review, revision and lessons learnt
Other Financial Scrutiny Support - examples
• Presentations, training etc
• Briefing to Committees and Committee Staff
• Responding to Treasury and National Audit Office on
emerging financial reporting issues
• Providing advice to Liaison Committee on proposals for
• Economic Support and Analysis e.g. Impact Assessments
• Writing sections of Committee Reports (where relevant)
Financial scrutiny: what does it achieve?
• Greater openness and transparency
• Accountability to public and Parliament for taxpayers’
• Incentives to
– Ensure decisions are fully thought through and
defensible before they are taken
– justify spending based on evidence
– consider alternative views and options proposed
– Possibly even to review and amend future plans
– Establish procedures to avoid embarrassment (eg
avoid wasteful spending or minimise fraud)
Supporting Corporate Functions
• Drawing on SU’s wide skills and experience base, help
– Outreach
– Internal Audit
– Library Research and Inquiries
– Public Understanding
– IT and technology tools
• Practical examples: Staff survey analysis; income
generation support; Speaker’s Committees; Hack
Scrutiny Unit Management
• Part of Commons Committee Office, Department of
Chamber and Committee Services
• Lead by Head of Unit and sub-divided into three teams
• Reports to the Clerk of Committees and Committee Office
Management Group
• Resources drawn from general Committee Office budgets
• Permanent staff supported by range of secondees, staff
on loan, and short-term appointments
SU Interns and Fellows Programme
• Drawn from range of academic, public and third sector
• Subject to same requirements on political impartiality and
• Work either directly in the SU or placed with a select
Any questions?
• Scrutiny Unit web pages
Email: [email protected]

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