6 Accountability of PHSO |
83. Until 1997, PHSO reported to its
own dedicated Select Committee, and since then to PASC. The relationship
with PASC has afforded PHSO a measure of support when faced with
resistance to PHSO's recommendations, for example in respect of
the disputed findings in reports on Equitable Life, and the operation
of the 2005 Single Payment Scheme by the Rural Payments Agency.
84. Buck, Kirkham and Thompson wrote
enthusiastically about the role of PASC in Ombudsman Enterprise
and administrative justice, noting that its work in support
of PHSO has been "hugely influential".
They described the relationship as one of "sponsorship",
"support" and "scrutiny", but noted that these
responsibilities "may appear conflicting" and that:
it may be that one of thereasons
that Parliamentary select committees have not fully engaged with
the work of thePHSO is a concern that they should not be seen
to work proactively with a bodyParliament is responsible for calling
85. The approach to the relationship
between the ombudsman and Parliament taken in Scotland is quite
different. Jim Martin, Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, explained
I have two bodies within the Parliament
who scrutinise my activity, but I do not have a supporting committee.
I do not have a committee that is there to support me; I am there
to be scrutinised by Parliament [...] Where I want to be with
Parliament is that I want Parliament to listen to what I have
to say, but at the same time I want Parliament to show the public
that I am managing the business of the Ombudsman appropriately.
I do not need a supporting committee to do that.
86. Buck, Kirkham and Thompson observed
that a model adopted in New Zealand makes a clear distinction
between the various functions of Parliament in respect of the
ombudsman. The New Zealand Officers of Parliament Committee recommends
persons for appointment as officers of Parliament to the House
and champions the work of the Ombudsman; and the Government Administration
Committee examines the Ombudsman's performance. Within the UK
Parliament, this distinct separation can be found in the relationship
between the NAO and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). PAC,
which examines "the accounts showing the appropriation of
the sums granted to Parliament to meet the public expenditure,
and of such other accounts laid before Parliament", holds
hearings based on NAO financial reports and value for money audits.Formal
scrutiny of the NAO is discharged by The Public Accounts Commission,
rather than by PAC, though this does not preclude PAC also scrutinising
Parliamentary Ombudsman was established in 1967, long before the
creation of departmental Select Committees. PASC was, in 1997,
given the remit in standing orders of scrutinising the reports
of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), in addition
to examining the quality and standards of administration within
the Civil Service. The time has come to review this arrangement
and to put measures in place to re-define the roles of scrutinising
PHSO's service and of engaging with its reports and findings.
To do so will increase transparency and will ensure there are
clear lines of accountability.
88. We recommend that Parliament
should strengthen the accountability of the Parliamentary and
Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO). The Public Accounts Commission,
or a similar body should take primary responsibility for scrutiny
of PHSO, including examining corporate plans, budget and resources.
PASC should have its Standing Orders amended to require it to
use the intelligence gathered by the PHSO to hold to account the
administration of Government. PASC should also ensure that PHSO's
reports are referred to the Departmental Select Committee to which
they are most relevant. From now on, we will do so. Departmental
Select Committees should use PHSO's reports to hold their respective
departments to account.
91 Trevor Buck, Richard Kirkham, Brian Thompson,
The Ombudsman enterprise and administrative justice(2010) Back
Trevor Buck, Richard Kirkham, Brian Thompson (PHS13) Back
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Public Accounts Committee, Role of the Committee, accessed January