Twenty-sixth Report: Work of the Commission in 2020 Contents

Work in 2020

12.The Commission held six meetings in 2020. Formal minutes of these meetings are published on the Commission’s website. Oral evidence from witnesses was taken in public at four of these meetings and was webcast on the parliamentary website.

13.Two oral Parliamentary Questions were tabled to the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission during 2019.1

14.In March, the Commission considered the NAO’s proposed strategy for 2020–21 to 2024–25.2 In doing so, the Commission had regard to the advice from the Treasury.3 Oral evidence was taken from the C&AG (Mr Gareth Davies). The Commission agreed the NAO’s Strategy and laid it before the House.

15.In April, the Commission considered the NAO’s Estimate for 2020–21, which sought approval for a net resource requirement of £76.22 million and a net capital requirement of £1.5 million.4 The Treasury indicated that it had little to add to the comments made in advance of the session on the strategy. Oral evidence was taken from the C&AG, the then Chair of the NAO (Lord Bichard) and the Executive Lead, Strategy and Operations (Mr Daniel Lambauer). The Commission agreed the Estimate requested by the NAO and laid it before the House.

16.In October, the Commission held a further evidence session with Gareth Davies, Lord Bichard and Daniel Lambauer.5 The purpose of this session was to review progress against the Estimate, particularly in light of the uncertainties arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

17.The Commission held a final meeting in December at which it took oral evidence from Lord Bichard, whose term as NAO Chair was coming to an end, and Dame Fiona Reynolds, the Chair-designate.6 Lord Bichard offered his reflections on his time as Chair, and Dame Fiona was asked about her priorities. The Chairman of the Commission expressed his thanks to Lord Bichard for the distinguished way he had served the NAO over the previous six years.

18.Following this public session, the Commission met Lord Bichard and Dame Fiona in private, along with their proposed candidates for positions on the NAO board: Ms Gaenor Bagley and Sir Martin Donnelly, who were seeking appointment for the first time, and Dame Clare Tickell, who was seeking re-appointment. The Commission questioned the candidates about their motivations, skills and experience and whether they foresaw any potential conflicts of interests. It also questioned Lord Bichard and Dame Fiona about the process and the due diligence undertaken. The Commission asked Sir Martin, Lord Bichard and Dame Fiona about any potential conflict with the executive roles Sir Martin held at Boeing. The Commission was advised that the NAO board played no role in the NAO’s statutory audit work, which was the sole responsibility of the Comptroller and Auditor General, and that–in the unlikely event that the NAO Board were to discuss any defence matters–Sir Martin would recuse himself from the discussions. The Commission agreed to appoint Ms Bagley and Sir Martin, and to re-appoint Dame Clare, as non-executive members of the NAO board, each for a three-year term.

1 Oral questions from Kerry McCarthy MP and Mr Philip Hollobone MP were answered on 19 May and 31 October respectively.

3 Letter from the Treasury, 14 March 2020

5 Transcript, 20 October 2020

6 Transcript, 1 December 2020

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