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Finance committees gather to discuss accountability

Members of the New Zealand Finance and Expenditure Committee head to Canberra this week for the 15th Biennial Australasian Council of Public Accounts Committees Conference.

The delegation consists of MPs Rt Hon David Carter (National) and Tamati Coffey (Labour). Sessions will focus on accountability, public engagement, and the role of parliamentarians. There will also be case studies and jurisdictional reports from the region. The New Zealand MPs will present their jurisdiction report, and on the session on “Fostering Engagement – the powers of public accounts committees to access expertise, call for documents and witnesses”.

The jurisdiction report notes that in addition to tax bills, the committee has reported back a number of other significant bills and made reports relating to Reserve Bank monetary policy and financial stability; Auditor-General reports; and double tax treaties. Looking forward, the committee is examining the Credit Contracts Legislation Amendment Bill, the Official Cash Rate, a proposal to establish an Independent Fiscal Institution, and efforts to enhance trust and accountability of the public sector set out by the Controller and Auditor-General.

A critical piece of the committee’s work programme this year has been the response to the Christchurch terror attacks in March 2019. The Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Bill and the second Arms Legislation Bill were referred to the committee.

Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives, Rt Hon Trevor Mallard, said: “Public accounts committees play a vital role in ensuring that governments are held accountable to citizens. They therefore have a strong influence on the way the public perceives parliaments in terms of openness and transparency.

“I am pleased that our committee members will be able to share lessons from its consideration of the Arms legislation, and also cross-sectoral scrutiny work arising from the Wellbeing Budget and the joint venture to address family and sexual violence.”

The conference takes place from 7 to 9 November 2019 at Parliament House, Canberra, Australia.

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