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Guiding Principles for the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)

The Committee's mandate is derived from the Legislative Assembly.

The Order of Reference

The Legislative Assembly has appointed the Standing Committee on Public Accounts to:

  • Examine and inquire into all such matters and things as may be referred to it by the Assembly, and to report from time to time its observations thereon with the power to send for persons, papers and records, and to examine witnesses under oath;
  • Review the Public Accounts of the Province of Nova Scotia and the issues raised in the annual report of the Auditor General which have been referred to the Committee.
  • Examine and inquire into any other financial matters involving public funds of the Province of Nova Scotia.

This enables the PAC to proceed without delay with its examinations. The PAC is not fundamentally concerned with matters of policy. The Committee does not call into question the rationale of government programmes, but rather the economy and efficiency of their administration. Although the PAC hopes to have a continuing influence on the quality of provincial administrative processes, its prime orientation is after-the fact, or post-audit, to understand, assess and correct (through recommendations in its reports to the Assembly) inadequacies, and issues that the Committee and the Auditor General have raised. The resulting "non policy" orientation of the Committee should enable the development of non-partisan spirit within the Committee in order to get at problems and seek solutions to them.

The Mandate

The PAC's mandate is to assist the Legislative Assembly, within the framework of its Order of Reference from the Legislative Assembly, the Public Accounts of the Province or the Auditor General's report, to hold the government accountable for its spending of taxpayers' money and for its stewardship over public assets. To fulfil its functions and meet its responsibilities, the Committee will undertake to review, examine and evaluate the financial and administrative activities of government departments, agencies, crown corporations, and any person or institution receiving financial assistance from the government, cited in the Public Accounts or the Report of the Auditor General. The Committee will conduct its work within the framework of its Order of Reference as follows: The Committee may include in its review:

  • the information in the Public Accounts for reliability and appropriateness;
  • the information in the annual Financial Reports;
  • matters raised in the Auditor General's report;
  • any audit report on the Office of the Auditor General;
  • clauses within intended or proposed legislation or amendments; which exclusively pertains to the responsibilities of the Auditor General;
  • the activities of the Office of the Auditor General and the resources allocated to it.

The Committee may include in its examination:

  • past and committed expenditures insofar as they relate directly to and have an impact on matters under review to assist the Committee in understanding the context;
  • the collection of and accounting for revenues;
  • the probity and value for money in expenditures;
  • the adequacy of safeguards to protect assets from loss, waste and misappropriation;
  • whether appropriate financial management controls are in existence.

The Committee may include in its evaluation:

  • the activities of all government departments, agencies, crown corporations, and any persons or institutions receiving financial assistance from the government;
  • the value for money obtained through divestiture of any crown corporation or agency;
  • the systems and practices to determine whether transfer payments are used for purposes intended;
  • the efficiency, economy and effectiveness in implementation of government programs and in their achievement of stated goals;
  • whether expenditures are within the limits and for purposes authorized by the Legislature and in general, in compliance with legislative authority;
  • any financial management reforms in government to determine whether due regard is given to maintaining legislative accountability.

In carrying out its role the Committee will seek to:

  • work with the Auditor General to achieve accountability to the Legislative Assembly;
  • obtain all financial information and documents necessary for the Committee's work except for records which are privileged in the narrowest sense such as Executive Council papers;
  • avoid matters of government policy;
  • study any other matters referred to it by the Legislative Assembly;
  • report its findings and make recommendations at least annually to the Legislative Assembly.