Select Committee on Environmental Audit Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Environmental Monitoring of Government—The Case for an Environmental Auditor by Kathryn Hollingsworth Lecturer in Law, Cardiff Law School[146]


  In November 1997 the Environmental Audit Committee of the House of Commons (EAC) was established. The Committee is modelled in some ways on the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons (PAC), but unlike the PAC the EAC is not supported by an independent auditor. This article argues that, despite the limitations of audit made in accountancy literature, audit can be a useful mechanism by which to hold government to account for the impact of its policies and operations on the environment. However, as a model of accountability, the current system of environmental audit is inadequate. In making this argument, the article will draw on two existing audit models. First, because the Government has chosen to model the EAC on the PAC the mechanisms in place for securing financial and value for money accountability in UK central government will be considered. Second, the article will look to the arrangements in Canada, where a more developed system of environmental audit exists.


  In 1994 the Labour Party published its principles of sustainable development.[147] This document, In Trust for Tomorrow, put forward a package of proposals which promised to put the environment at the heart of all areas of policy. Proposed institutional and structural changes included the development of a national sustainable development plan, the establishment of an environment agency, changes to the structure of the Department of the Environment and the setting up of an Environmental Audit Committee. It was envisaged that this Committee would have a cross-departmental remit and powers similar to the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons. Its functions would include monitoring the implementation of the national sustainable development strategy and questioning green ministers about their Department's annual environmental reports and the environmental impact of proposed policies.[148] In 1997, the promise to create an Environmental Audit Committee became a manifesto pledge and in November of that year, following the election of the Labour Government in May, the Environmental Audit Committee of the House of Commons was established.[149]

  As promised in 1994, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) does indeed have powers similar to that of the Public Accounts Committee (the committee to which the National Audit Office, the body responsible for the financial and value for money audit of central government, reports). Its remit allows it to monitor the extent to which the policies and programmes of government departments and non-departmental public bodies contribute to environmental protection and sustainable development, to audit their performance against set targets, and to report to the House thereon. The EAC also has structural similarities to the Public Accounts Committee. For example, unlike most select committees both chairs are members of the Opposition, and a minister has ex officio membership on both committees (the Financial Secretary to the Treasury sits on the Public Accounts Committee and the Environment Minister is a member of the EAC).[150] However, unlike the Public Accounts Committee, the EAC does not have the support of an independent audit body. This is despite recognition by the Labour Party in 1994 that part of the reason why the PAC is effective is because it has the back-up of the National Audit Office, and a promise that accordingly the role of the National Audit Office would be expanded to include specific investigations at the request of the EAC, as well as providing it with regular information and advice.[151]

  This article will argue that despite the limitations of audit highlighted in accountancy literature,[152] audit can be a useful mechanism by which to hold government to account for the impact of its policies and operations on the environment ("environmental accountability"). However, as a model of accountability, the system of environmental audit established by the Government in November 1997 is inadequate. In making this argument, I will draw on two existing audit models. First, because the Government has chosen to model the Environmental Audit Committee on the Public Accounts Committee I will look at the mechanisms in place for securing financial and value for money accountability in UK central government. Second, I will look to the arrangements in Canada, where a more developed system of environmental audit exists and a Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development has been established to audit government.[153] On the basis of this analysis I will argue that the system for environmental accountability must be more closely aligned to the system of financial and value for money accountability. In particular, an environmental auditor must be established, with a role and constitutional framework which is best suited to securing environmental accountability.


  The establishment of the EAC is in addition to various other initiatives which have been put in place over the course of the last decade to integrate the environment into policy making and government practice. Most of these developments began life under the Conservative Government and stemmed from This Common Inheritance: Britain's Environmental Strategy,[154] and Sustainable Development: The UK strategy.[155] The present Government has built on and strengthened initiatives put in place by the Conservatives[156] and has introduced some new developments. A new Cabinet committee, ENV, has been established to develop "high level" strategy and to ensure the integration of the environment into policy across government, there is a statutory requirement for the National Assembly for Wales[157] and Regional Development Agencies[158] to take measures to secure sustainable development, and a Sustainable Development Unit has been set up within the Environment Protection Group of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR).[159]

  These initiatives have been put in place to monitor the government's environmental performance, and are largely internal or managerial mechanisms of accountability. The EAC is the body which has primary responsibility for external monitoring and accountability. As set out above, the role of the EAC is to monitor the extent to which the policies and programmes of government departments and non-departmental public bodies contribute to environmental protection and sustainable development and to audit their performance against set targets.[160] Audit in this sense does not have the same meaning as environment audits carried out in the private sector. In the private sector, environmental audit relates specifically to the audit of environmental management systems and is largely a management tool. For example, the EC Eco-Management and Audit Scheme,[161] BS 7750 (Environmental Management Systems) and the ISO 14000 series all focus on the quality of internal management systems.[162]

  It is apparent that in relation to the role of the EAC a much wider definition or understanding of the word audit is intended. The EAC has, at the time of writing, reported 12 times and these reports have mostly covered pan-governmental issues and address higher levels of policy making.[163] For example, the Committee has reported on the environmental implications of the pre-budget reports, the multi-lateral agreement on investment, public service agreements and the greening government initiative. The Government responds to these reports outlining whether it accepts the findings of the Committee and what changes will result.[164] Unlike the Public Accounts Committee, a follow up process has not yet been fully developed to see whether the Government actually implements those recommendations which it accepts. The EAC is too recent a committee for such a procedure to have been established.

  The EAC is thus providing a high level scrutiny role, as is befitting of a Parliamentary committee. What it has not done is systematically review the extent to which individual departments are integrating the environment into policy making, and greening their operations.[165] It has neither the resources, time, nor expertise to carry out this function. This is not to deny the importance of the EAC as a scrutiny committee, nor the expertise which its members contribute to the process. But in order for the committee to achieve the same degree of success as the Public Accounts Committee, which the government intended,[166] an environmental auditor must be established. In order to fully understand what role that auditor should have, and the constitutional framework within which s/he should operate, we need to now look at the use of audit as an accountability mechanism.


  Over the last 20 years, the use of audit in both the public and private sectors has spread from a check on the financial statements of an organisation (financial audit),[167] to studies into the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of spending (value for money audit), to social, medical and environmental audits.[168] Power has coined the phrase "audit explosion" to describe the dominance of audit as an accountability mechanism, a dominance which has, he argues, created a perception of audit as the only feasible model of accountability.[169] He sees this as problematic because, as with other types of accountability, audit has its limitations. For example, audits are not always directly concerned with the quality of performance but rather with the systems in place to monitor and govern that performance. This can lead to a so-called "expectations gap",[170] where the public perception of audit as a mechanism to bring about substantive improvements (for example by uncovering fraud) is not in line with the actual purpose of audit, which is to improve the internal monitoring systems. Neither are audits passive. They actively construct the context in which they operate in order to make the particular environment auditable.[171] And, the further away one moves from financial audit the more difficult it becomes for the auditor to retain neutrality and the more likely it is that value judgements will be made.[172]

  Despite these limitations, Power does not deny the usefulness of audit or the gains which the "audit explosion" might have brought about. But he warns against its dominance and the unquestioning acceptance of audit as the only suitable model of control or accountability. Power sees audit as fitting within one of two models of accountability. The first, style A, is quantitative and involves single measure, external agencies, long distance methods, low trust, discipline, ex post control, and private experts. Style B, in contrast, is qualitative and involves multiple measures, internal agencies, local methods, high trust, autonomy, real time control, and public dialogue. In most situations audit uses style A mechanisms to resolve accountability problems. But, according to Power, what is necessary to maximise the gains of style A accountability is for it to be used in conjunction with some of those aspects of style B.[173]

  In seeking a model of accountability to use in the environmental context, one must be careful not to transplant the financial audit model onto the environmental sphere without taking account of the above limitations. But neither should one be deterred from a particular accountability model because of problems identified in other disciplines. Given that the Government has chosen an audit model for environmental accountability, this article will focus on how that model can be used most effectively. In doing so, lessons will be drawn from the financial/vfm audit system in the UK, and the more developed system of environmental audit used in Canada. At the same time, by taking account of the work by Power and looking at ways to combine some aspects of style B accountability with audit, we can hopefully avoid some of the pitfalls of audit highlighted by him.

UK Central Government Audit as a Model of Accountability[174]

  In UK central government, audit is part of a system of ex ante and ex post mechanisms used to achieve accountability for public expenditure.[175] Accounts of money spent by a department are prepared annually, the responsibility for which lies with the departmental accounting officer. The audit of those accounts is carried out by the National Audit Office (NAO), headed by the Comptroller and Audit General (C&AG), an officer of the House of Commons. In addition to financial auditing, the NAO is also empowered by section 6 of the National Audit Act 1983 to carry out value for money examinations. The NAO reports to the House of Commons, primarily through the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).[176] The Treasury also has an important role in the process.[177] The Treasury's responsibilities include: establishing internal rules on accounting and financial procedure,[178] overseeing a system of internal audit; liaising with the PAC; and appointment of departmental accounting officers.[179]

  Space precludes a thorough evaluation of the system of financial and value for money audit. But a recent analysis has shown that the system of public sector audit for central government works well, particularly since reforms in 1983 established an independent NAO, and increased the C&AG's jurisdiction to include value for money audit.[180] In coming to such a conclusion three aspects of the system were identified as being of particular importance. First, the independence of the main actors—in the case of central government audit, the C&AG and NAO— from those they audit.[181] Second, there is a mechanism for reporting the outcome of the audit to a body which is also independent from those being audited, and which has the ability to call the auditee to account, namely, the PAC.[182] Third, the system of central government audit, culminating in the PAC hearing, achieves the aims of both managerial and democratic accountability. Democratic accountability refers to the process by which Parliament, on behalf of the electorate, holds government to account. Managerial accountability is concerned with how government in the narrow sense (ministers) holds to account government in the wider sense (all those organisations such as departments, non-departmental public bodies, NHS bodies and local authorities who do the work of government). When the NAO and C&AG audit the accounts of government bodies, and report to the PAC, they are concerned with the extent to which a set of rules have been complied with. These rules are not imposed on government from outside but are rules which it uses to control itself. The system of audit uses democratic accountability to Parliament to reinforce self-regulation within government. In particular this helps the Treasury to control departments and to reinforce managerial accountability within departments.[183]

  The extent to which democratic and managerial accountability overlap can be illustrated by looking at certain aspects of the PAC hearing. First, the main witness before the Committee is the accounting officer. If the system were seeking only to secure democratic accountability then the primary witness could be the minister, in accordance with the normal convention of ministerial responsibility. The appearance of accounting officers before the PAC reflects the importance of the hearing as a mechanism to secure managerial as well as democratic accountability.

  Second, the PAC usually acts in a non-partisan way. This is due in part to the convention that the chair of the Committee is always a member of the opposition, and because it is accounting officers, who as civil servants are supposedly politically neutral, who appear as the main witnesses. The relative absence of party politics shows a recognition by the PAC that their role is not only to secure democratic but also managerial accountability.

  Third, there is a close relationship between the Treasury and the PAC. The Treasury has an important role in the internal control of government finances.[184] Evidence of a close relationship between the Treasury and the PAC would strengthen claims of an alliance between the aims of democratic and managerial accountability. This is true on a number of levels. First, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has ex officio membership on the PAC, which was, until the creation of the EAC, unique for scrutiny select committees.[185] In addition, the Treasury Officer of Accounts attends every PAC hearing as a witness and is involved in briefing the relevant accounting officer before the hearing.[186] Finally, once the PAC has reported, the response from the department comes officially in the form of a Treasury Minute. Although the minute is in practice drafted by the department itself,[187] it is demonstrative of the Treasury's central role in the process. We can see therefore, that managerial and democratic accountability are intrinsically linked.

  Although the above analysis relates specifically to financial and vfm audit, the constitutional principles which underlie the system—independence, an audience and a convergence of the aims of democratic and managerial accountability—apply equally where other types of accountability are being sought through the use of audit. The extent to which the current system of environment audit meets these criteria will be considered below. First though, it is useful to look in more detail at an established system of public sector environmental audit, namely the Canadian Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development.

The Canadian Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development

  Canadians were first promised an Environmental Auditor General by the Liberal Party in their 1993 electoral campaign. Upon election, the Liberal Government requested the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to report on the possibility of establishing an environmental auditor, what the functions of such an officer should be, the implication for government resources, and the extent to which existing mechanisms and programmes could effectively carry out those functions.[188] Seventeen recommendations were made, centred around the statutory creation of a Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development,[189] which would be independent of government and separate from the Office of Auditor General.[190]

  The Government subsequently created the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development, although not all of the Committee's recommendations were followed. In particular, the new Commissioner was established following amendments to the 1977 Auditor General Act.[191] Consequently, the Commissioner is appointed by the Auditor General, and carries out functions on his/her behalf. The Commissioner thus has dual accountability—s/he reports annually to Parliament but is managerially responsible to the Auditor General.[192]

  The placing of the Commissioner within the Office of Auditor General can be, and was, criticised for sidelining environmental concerns. Nonetheless, there is now recognition that this has a number of advantages: first, the Commissioner has benefited from the status of, and high regard for, the Auditor General; second, the Commissioner was able to take advantage of a well established infra-structure; and third, issues of overlap between the Commissioner and Auditor General can be more easily resolved.[193]

The Role of the Commissioner

  The Auditor General Act 1997[194] states that "the purpose of the Commissioner is to provide sustainable development monitoring and reporting on the progress of the 24 category I departments towards sustainable development, which is a continually evolving concept based on the integration of social, economic, and environmental concerns..."[195] The Commissioner assists the Auditor General in performing those duties that relate to the environment and sustainable development.[196] These duties have been enhanced by including the environmental effects of spending in the list of issues on which the Auditor General can report to Parliament. In effect, the 3Es are now the 4Es (economy, efficiency, effectiveness and environment).[197] In addition, following the 1995 amendments, section 24 of the 1977 Act now requires departments to prepare sustainable development strategies. Thus, the Commissioner's role is fourfold:

    (i)  to make any examinations and inquiries that he feels are necessary to monitor the extent to which category I departments have met the objectives and implemented the plans set out in their sustainable development strategies;[198]

    (ii)  to be responsible for the value for money audits which are primarily concerned with environmental issues;[199]

    (iii)  to issue special reports;[200]

    (iv)  to receive petitions from individuals on behalf of the Auditor General.[201]

Constitutional Framework

  Any person or body appointed in order to secure government accountability should be independent of those they are calling to account.[202] Ideally this should be secured by statute. The amendments to the Auditor General Act do not set out either the appointment procedure for the Commissioner, nor the length of term of office. The process of selection of the Commissioner is much the same as it would be for any senior officer. The Commissioner is, therefore, appointed by the Auditor General within the terms of the Public Service Employment Act. When the first Commissioner was appointed, the Auditor General consulted the Minister of the Environment. There is no statutory provision providing for such consultation, it was done on the basis of an understanding between the current Auditor General and the Minister.[203]

  The Commissioner remains in position until s/he retires, resigns, or is asked to leave by the Auditor General. There is no protection for the Commissioner if the Auditor General chooses to dismiss him/her. No Parliamentary approval is necessary though Parliament could ask the Auditor General to testify about his reasons for dismissal.

  The level of the Commissioner's salary is determined by the Auditor General. The Auditor General's own salary is specified by statute and deputy Auditor Generals' salaries are set at 85 per cent of that of the Auditor General. The Committee for Environment and Sustainable Development recommended in their 1994 report that the Commissioner be paid a salary comparable with a puisne judge, but this was rejected. The budget of the Commissioner is controlled by the Auditor General, although the Auditor General is confined to an extent by promises made to Parliament.

  The Commissioner reports annually to Parliament.[204] The Commissioner's first substantive report was published in 1998.[205] In practice, the main audience for the Commissioner's reports is the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. This is not a specific environmental audit committee but the departmentally related committee for Environment Canada, which also has responsibility for calling to account the National Round Table on Environment and Economy, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

  As is common before Canadian committees, the main witness before the Committee for the Environment and Sustainable Development is usually the deputy minister, the senior civil servant of the department. The Commissioner also appears as a witness and gives evidence.[206] The result is that hearings can be adversarial.

Comments on the Canadian System

  What relevant observations can be made about the Canadian system, and what might be learnt by the UK from the role and constitutional framework of the Commissioner? First, there are a number of areas where the protection of the Commissioner's independence is not as robust at is might be. The independence of the Commissioner should be protected by statute, rather than being based on the personal integrity of the Auditor General. Such a statute could include for example; a set salary level, either equivalent with a puisne judge or a specific percentage of the Auditor General's salary; a specified length of tenure; power to exercise discretion over his/her own budget and expenditure, subject to scrutiny by an independent committee of Parliament; and insulation from ministerial involvement in the appointment process.

  Secondly, in relation to the reporting process the Commissioner should not be restricted to reporting only once a year[207]. Although, annual reporting has the advantage of gaining considerable press attention and puts sustainable development issues high on the political agenda, placing a restriction on the number of reports the Commissioner is able to publish can have a negative impact on his/her effectiveness and independence. It denies the Commissioner discretion to report as and when s/he sees fit, potentially damaging the impact and topicality of reports and can result in an overload for the audience at one point in the year. A specific environmental audit committee should also be established. At present, given that the Commissioner reports only once a year, there is no need for a specific audit committee. However, if the Commissioner were able to report more frequently an environmental audit committee would be necessary. This would separate the audit role from the general departmentally related scrutiny role. This committee could be directly comparable with the PAC, helping to enhance its status.[208] A specific environmental audit committee would allow a closer working relationship with the Commissioner, which, combined with more frequent reporting, would be more likely to lead to better accountability.


  Unlike Canada, the UK does not have a separate environmental auditor. The EAC has some support from the Sustainable Development Unit, the main government contact point for the committee, whose remit includes providing the EAC with support and information. However, the Unit does not carry out environmental audits for the EAC nor does it have the same role which the NAO has in relation to the PAC. At present therefore, the EAC has the combined role of auditor and audience. However, as we have seen from our audit model above, these roles should be carried out by two separate bodies.[209] The opportunity to develop the role of the EAC into an effective audience should not be lost.[210] However, it must be provided with the standard of independent information with which the NAO provides the PAC, and which the Canadian Commissioner provides the Canadian Parliament. This expertise must come from a suitably qualified source, one which is independent from both the auditee (government) and the audience (EAC). An environmental auditor should be established.

  In addition to improving the system as a whole, a new auditor, created by statute, would have a number of positive outcomes for the EAC itself. First, the position of the EAC would be more effectively secured. At present, as with any select committee the EAC could be abolished by repealing the standing order by which it was established. Legislation which created an environmental auditor could provide a role for the EAC, for example in the appointment process of the auditor, or as the primary body to which the auditor should report. Having a role established by statute would make it more difficult for a future government to abolish the committee. Second, at present the EAC is reliant on witnesses and the Sustainable Development Unit for information. Witnesses can choose what information to give, and how to present it; the EAC has neither the access nor the staff to obtain information itself. If an environmental auditor was established, the reliance which the Committee has on the Sustainable Development Unit and those it calls as witnesses could be reduced, insulating the Committee from the influence of the very people it is calling to account. Third, the current EAC has only three members with previous experience specific to the environment.[211] An independent auditor would help a relatively inexperienced committee to call government to account more effectively.

  The development of an environmental audit role could take one of three forms: (i) a new and separate office of environmental auditor; (ii) an extended role for the current C&AG to include environmental audits; or (iii) a new environmental auditor who operates within the NAO on behalf of the C&AG. When assessing the relative strengths of these alternatives, the role of such an auditor must be considered, including the extent to which the role combines both style A and B models of accountability.[212] Attention must also be paid to the constitutional framework, specifically the independence and audience of the auditor and the extent to which the aims of managerial and democratic accountability are aligned.

Role of an Environmental Auditor

  There are two aspects of the Canadian Commissioner's role which, in particular, a UK environmental auditor could have responsibility for—monitoring sustainable development strategies of departments and "environmental audits".

Monitoring sustainable development strategies

  At present there is no requirement for UK departments to produce sustainable development strategies.[213] The second annual This Common Inheritance report required all departments to produce an environmental strategy by the end of 1992. However, these strategies were in relation to "green housekeeping" only.[214] And although the Government has revised the UK sustainable development strategy,[215] this is a government-wide initiative and is not the responsibility of individual department.[216] As noted above, the EAC does not monitor the performance of individual departments. However, the Committee has recommended that as a minimum, each department should report annually on how its policies and operations impact on the environment and contribute to the government's sustainable development strategy; its systems and key targets for addressing each of the main impacts; and its performance in respect of these targets.[217] This is similar to the information required in the sustainable development strategies of Canadian departments.

  In Canada the strategies include: assessment of the activities of the department in terms of their environmental impact; goals, objectives and benchmarks for measuring progress; an action plan showing how the goals will be achieved; and an explanation as to how the department will measure and report on its performance.[218] There is therefore, support for the argument that similar strategies should be required in the UK.

  The setting of targets for strategies would be the responsibility of the department along with the Green Ministers Committee and ENV. Independent monitoring of the strategies, and subsequent compliance with them, could be carried out by the auditor, and used by the EAC to call individual departments to account. Monitoring targets would not be an easy task for an environmental auditor, in particular s/he would have to ensure that policy objectives are not questioned. In order to be able to most effectively audit the strategies, the environmental auditor and his/her staff should have considerable expertise in environmental matters as well as auditing skills.[219]

  Placing a requirement on departments to produce sustainable development strategies which are monitored by an auditor, could be subject to one of the criticisms of audit made by Power. That is, that the audit will lead to the strategies being constructed in such a way as to make them "auditable". Thus the monitoring system would not simply be reporting on what is taking place but would actually be constructing the environment. This criticism could be aimed at Canada. In preparing sustainable development strategies, departments are assisted by A Guide to Green Government.[220] The Commissioner uses this guide to monitor the strategies and, in his 1998 report, reported on the strategies and ranked them accordingly. In effect this created a league table. Although favoured by the Commissioner, this approach has the potential to produce mis-leading results, and reward those departments which have prepared strategies according to the specific requirements of the Guide but which do not necessarily meet the grade when it comes to integrating sustainable development into policy making. It is also in danger of creating a "check list" culture, where departments ensure they meet the criteria for a good strategy but do little to think about long term effects of their policies and sustainable development plans.

  Despite the criticisms of this aspect of the Canadian system, guidance can still have a positive role to play, particularly in creating links between managerial and democratic accountability. The Green Ministers Committee, which currently sets targets for government and has recently published its First Annual Report,[221] could in consultation with the Sustainable Development Unit, have responsibility for producing guidance concerning the content of the strategies. Involvement of the green ministers and the DETR in the process would help forge links between managerial and democratic accountability. It may even be desirable for guidance to be more complete, though not necessarily more detailed, with the development of a document analogous to Government Accounting. This could set out the legal and non legal responsibilities of departments, for greening operations and policies, reporting and monitoring obligations, including the role of an environmental auditor, and his or her relationship with departments. Such a document could be used to draw together all the initiatives which currently exist and set out more clearly government's responsibilities towards the environment. This would aid not only those within government but also those seeking to hold it to account. The Treasury is currently revising Government Accounting to ensure that all advice to civil servants on policy appraisal refers to the need to consider environmental issues.[222] But this addresses only one part of environmental accountability—policy appraisal—and as the EAC has shown, many policies with potential environmental impacts have not been subject to policy appraisals.[223] A comprehensive "Green Government Accounting" would help ensure that environmental issues are not simply "bolt-on" to other, usually economic concerns.

  A senior civil servant in each department, responsible for achieving sustainable development and for preparing the Department's sustainable development strategy, could help ensure that policies take account of environmental impacts. As with accounting officers, such persons would be personally responsible to Parliament, through the EAC. Although an exception to ministerial responsibility, it would be no different from responsibilities currently conferred on accounting officers.

  One option would be to increase the role of permanent secretaries to include formal responsibilities to support the Green Ministers and ensure environmental issues are considered in policy development, and to improve green housekeeping. The EAC recommended such a role in its second report.[224] The Government response to that report stated that permanent secretaries' overall responsibility for the management of departments already gives them a role in overseeing both environmental appraisal systems and green operations.[225] However, this falls short of the responsibilities on permanent secretaries, as accounting officer, to secure financial management of the department.

  These suggestions draw on the current financial audit system, the success of which, as we have seen above, is partly dependent upon a convergence of aims between democratic and managerial accountability. Environmental monitoring in both the public and private sectors began life as a management tool.[226] The strengthening of managerial accountability should not therefore be too problematic. It would provide a more comprehensive system which extends beyond the audit of environmental management systems and forges links with democratic audit. It is unlikely that any government will place environmental accountability on a par with financial accountability in the foreseeable future. But if environmental accountability is to be taken seriously then some consideration must be given to more closely aligning it to the system of financial accountability.

"Environmental audit"

  One way in which this could be done, and a second main role for an environmental auditor, would be to make the environmental impact of programmes and projects the fourth "E" of vfm studies.[227] Departments would thus be required to show that they had spent money with regard to economy, efficiency, effectiveness and the environment. An enhanced role for an environmental auditor would ensue. "Environmental audits" could either involve carrying out studies in addition to regular vfm audits or, as in Canada, the environmental auditor having responsibility for those vfm studies which have a substantial environmental component (either because of the department or agency concerned or the impact of the particular project or policy).[228]

  Inevitably, this would require much co-operation between that officer and the NAO. Indeed, one could argue that the NAO, headed by the C&AG, would be best placed to carry out such a function. This was what the Labour Party envisaged in its 1994 document In Trust for Tomorrow.[229] The current powers of the C& AG/NAO do allow the environmental impact of spending to be considered under the wider head of effectiveness. If he chose to, the C&AG could develop such a role.[230] But this fails to place upon departments any duty to show they have considered the environmental impacts of policies and placed the environment into the vfm equation.

  Comparisons can be drawn here with the position of value for money prior to the National Audit Act 1983. Before 1983, the C&AG carried out "prevention of wastefulness" studies, which were in effect, vfm audits. The C&AG did not have a specific statutory power to carry out such studies, but neither was he prohibited from doing so. Nonetheless, by 1983 it became clear that it was necessary to put such powers on a formal, statutory basis.[231] The system of governmental accountability for value for money has, as a result, improved.[232] The same arguments can be applied to environmental audit. It needs to be on a statutory basis to ensure that government departments consider spending proposals after taking account not only of economy, efficiency and effectiveness but also the environment.

  It is worth emphasising again that environmental audit here is distinct from environmental audits carried out in the private sector, which are concerned with environmental management systems. Power argues that these environmental management system audits may offer benefits in relation to improved management systems, cost savings, and legal compliance but offer less to external parties such as the public, local authorities, shareholders and so on.[233] The type of environmental audit envisaged above for an environmental auditor is wider and arguably offers more useful information for the public and other users. Such audits, although potentially problematic in terms of lack of neutrality (as with any vfm study compared to financial audit), help to avoid the "expectations gap" as they go beyond merely auditing systems to helping to improve environmental protection.

  Conducting environmental audits in this wider sense would help to combine Power's style A and B accountability models. Although they are a monitoring process they are qualitative, and would use multiple measures. If the environmental auditor also had a "capacity building" role as the Canadian commissioner does,[234] this would further utilise style B aspects of accountability. Capacity building, that is, stepping outside an audit framework and working with departments to help them strengthen their capacity to manage environmental issues, would involve increased dialogue with the departments and leave them to improve their own systems leading as a result, to increased autonomy and trust. The potential danger is that this might be seen as an advisory role and compromise the independence of the auditor.

  A different way in which style B mechanisms might be employed would be to set up a co-ordinated system whereby the public could comment on policies, bills, regulations and so on before they are finalised. This could make use of modern technology, specifically the internet, by posting bills, regulations, and other instruments on a "noticeboard" for comment. The responsibility for running the system and taking into account the views of the public would be the departments', and the environmental auditor could be responsible for overseeing the operation of the system, and monitoring the extent to which departments took account of comments made.[235]

  Having looked at the possible role for an environmental auditor, the next question is who should this auditor be? Should the C&AG's remit be extended to give him specific authority to carry out such a role, or should a new environmental auditor be established? And, if so, should that auditor be within or outside the NAO?

The Constitutional Framework of an Environmental Auditor

  There are a number of factors which support the establishment of a separate auditor rather than extending the role given to the C&AG. First, if the C&AG's jurisdiction is increased to include environmental issues, there is a possibility that the environmental side of vfm studies will be sidelined and inadequate attention and publicity given to the role. A separate auditor would avoid such problems because his/her primary concern would be with the environmental component of vfm. This would help increase the attention given to the environmental aspect of vfm studies, and more generally raise the profile within government, the media, and the public. Second, a separate auditor would guarantee a clear delineation between the environmental audit and other vfm audits, and so the issue of which committee the reports go before would be more straightforward. Reports by the C&AG would continue to go before the PAC, and reports by the environmental auditor would go to the EAC (as is the case in Canada). If on the other hand, the C&AG was given an extended role, the PAC may be reluctant to relinquish its own role as primary audience for all NAO reports,[236] and a role for the EAC would be lost.[237] Finally, environmental audit requires specialist environmental expertise which the would not be able to provide.

  Given that a separate environmental auditor is necessary, the question now is, should that auditor be within the NAO and serve the C&AG, similar to the Canadian arrangements, or should a new Office of Environmental Auditor be established? There are a number of reasons in favour of an environmental auditor being within the NAO. In Canada despite initial reservations, the Commissioner has benefited from a well established infrastructure and the high regard with which the Auditor General is held. The same could be true in the UK. And there are already links between the EAC and NAO which could be nurtured.[238] Again, as in Canada, issues of overlap which occur could be more easily resolved if that auditor operated within the NAO. Finally, placing an environmental auditor within the NAO is a model more likely to be accepted by the Government because it would not involve significant new expenditure nor radically alter the status quo. However, it is essential that the environmental auditor should be able to appoint his/her own staff. Environmental audit is a multi-disciplinary task which requires expertise in a number of areas, including science and law as well as accounting.[239] Qualified accountants have an important contribution to play in providing advice concerning the audit of systems but the staff of an environmental auditor should also be drawn widely from other disciplines.[240]


  The independence of an environmental auditor should of course be protected. Establishing the post by statute would secure it from abolition without proper Parliamentary scrutiny. Equally, there should be no ministerial involvement in appointment and dismissal. Appointment could mirror the procedure used in appointing the C&AG, requiring consultation with the chair of the EAC. The present chair of the EAC is a member of the Opposition so this would help to ensure a non-partisan appointment. As yet, this practice has not developed into a constitutional convention (unlike the PAC), but there is no reason why it should not. Dismissal of the auditor should only be allowed on set grounds (ill health, mental incapacity, bankruptcy) after the approval of both Houses of Parliament. It is important that there is a fixed term of office which is long enough for the auditor to have an impact but not too long that the relationship between the auditor and government becomes "cosy".

  The resources available to the auditor would have to be such to allow him/her to carry out his/her job effectively. As with the C&AG the budget could be approved by the House of Commons. At present the task of approval of the C&AG's budget falls on the Public Accounts Commission. Its role could be extended to include scrutiny of the budget of the Environmental Auditor, and the committee renamed to reflect its wider role.

  Appointment and dismissal on these terms would put the environmental auditor on a par with the C&AG rather than working for him/her. However, if the environmental auditor is to be established within the NAO, then it seems inevitable that s/he will work for the C&AG, as in Canada, to avoid any usurpation of power from the C&AG. A role would have to be given to the C&AG in appointment and dismissal, but the same protections must still apply, for example, consultation with the chair of the EAC and a fixed term of office.


  We saw above that the PAC is successful because it meets the needs of government as well as Parliament—ie managerial and democratic accountability are both achieved.[241] The proposals set out above for a senior environmental civil servant within each department, who would appear before the EAC as main witness would help achieve this. This would remove the minister from this part of the process and help to de-politicise the hearing.

  One difference between the EAC and PAC which would have to be addressed is that the EAC can, under the standing order which established the Committee, examine policy and make policy recommendations.[242] The NAO is restricted from questioning policy by legislation,[243] and in line with this, the PAC operates a practice that it also does not consider the merits of policy objectives. The PAC appears to operate more effectively because of the restriction, because it reduces the likelihood of disagreement between members. The EAC is not so restricted, but it may chose to follow the example of the PAC and develop a practice not to question policy objectives.

Democratic and Managerial Accountability

  Finally, for an audit system to achieve effective democratic accountability, the system must also meet the needs of managerial accountability, and vice versa. The system for control of public expenditure is one which has been developing for well over 100 years. It is unrealistic, therefore, to expect an alignment of democratic and managerial accountability to occur in the field of environmental audit straight away. However, as we saw above, some long term aims might involve: the establishment of senior civil servants within departments who are responsible for environmental management and who appear as the main witness on behalf of their department before the EAC; and an increased role for the DETR including a good working relationship with the EAC. The EAC recognises the importance of managerial accountability and heard evidence from some permanent secretaries before publishing their second Greening Government report. The reforms outlined above, along with an independent auditor, would further develop the process initiated by the EAC and go some way towards securing an effective system of environmental accountability.


  We have seen above that if the government is to continue with a system of environmental audit to achieve environmental accountability, that system would be much improved, based on lessons drawn from Canada and the financial and vfm system in the UK central government, if an environmental auditor were established. The role of such an auditor should be wider than environmental audit as used in the private sector, and combine audit with some aspects of what Power classifies as style B accountability.

  But audit (even audit which is combined with style B mechanisms of accountability) is not the only model of environmental accountability which can be employed. It should not be assumed that because environmental audit is being used for central government it is the best model of environmental accountability for other levels of government. There is a need to move accountability mechanisms forward into the 21st century and look for innovative ways to provide accountability.[244] In this way, other options of environmental accountability could be explored for the regional governments.[245] For example, we could look to the ombudsman model used in New Zealand which combines a traditional ombudsman function with an auditor function to achieve environmental accountability. Or we could draw lessons from Ontario where a Bill of Environmental Rights was passed in 1993. Responsibility for environmental accountability is placed in the hands of the citizen, by giving them various rights including increased participation rights. Support for the public comes from the Ontario Commissioner for the Environment who oversees the system. Giving the public responsibility for participating in ex ante accountability may be more useful where populations are smaller and government is closer to the people, and could be a model appropriate for the National Assembly for Wales or the Scottish Parliament.

  But for central government, audit is a useful model of accountability for reasons which are both pragmatic and based on principle. Pragmatically, an audit model has been selected by this Government and it is arguably more useful to look at how this might be improved than to suggest an entirely new system. From a principled point of view, by extending the 3Es to the 4Es and monitoring policy decisions in this way, a holistic approach to decision making is instigated, ensuring that the environment is not a "bolt-on" but is considered an integral part of the decision making process. Environmental concerns may be given greater status within government if the system for securing accountability is comparable to the system for achieving financial accountability. And finally, if the system is modelled on the financial and vfm process it can help to combine managerial and democratic accountability, with each contributing to the effectiveness of the other.

  I do not want to suggest that the mechanics of financial or vfm audit are the same as environmental audit, nor that audit is always an appropriate accountability model. Account should be taken of the problems of audit identified in the accountancy literature. But in central government at least, a strong system of audit which includes an audience and an independent auditor, and which combines style A and B aspects of accountability can provide an effective model by which to achieve environmental accountability.

146   I am grateful to the Canadian High Commission who funded this research as part of the Faculty Research Program. I would also like to thank those members and officials of the Canadian Auditor General's Office, Environment Canada, the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario's Office, the Ontario Ministry of Environment, the UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions who gave freely of their time to meet with me. Thanks also to Ian Harden, Victoria Jenkins, Robert Lee, Derek Morgan, Dawn Oliver, Andrew Scott, Celia Wells and the anonymous referees who read and commented on earlier versions of this article. I take full responsibility for any errors and opinions expressed. Back

147   In Trust for Tomorrow: Report of the Labour Party Policy Commission on the Environment (1994). This document built on the principles set out in the Party's 1990 statement An Earthly ChanceBack

148   Ibid, p 44. Back

149   The Committee was established by Standing Order 152 (A). For further information on the background of the Committee see A Ross, "Monitoring environmental performance in government: the role of the new Environmental Audit Committee of the House of Commons", [1998] PL 190. Back

150   This membership is largely symbolic. See below n 40. Back

151   See above n 2. Back

152   See below n 23 and associated text. Back

153   Environmental auditors or commissioners have been established in other Westminster style jurisdictions, for example in the Australian Capital Territory, New Zealand and Ontario (for a brief discussion of the latter two see below n 99 and associated text). The purpose of this article is not to provide a comprehensive review of such systems, but to draw from one set of arrangements which in particular provide a useful comparator for the UK. Back

154   Cm 1200 (1990). Back

155   Cm 2426 (1994). Back

156   For example, the Green Ministers Committee; the establishment of advisory bodies (The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution; the Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment; and a new Sustainable Development Commission is to be established in 2000 which will subsume the UK Round Table on sustainable Development and the Government Panel on sustainable Development); the use of Environmental Management Systems (see EC regulation 1836/93 and ISO 14000) and Environmental Impact Assessments in government; the inclusion of environmental information in departmental annual reports; environmental appraisals of policies (See Department of the Environment, Policy appraisal and the Environment, 1991, revised in 1998); a revised sustainable development strategy (Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, A Better Quality of Life: A Strategy for sustainable Development for the United Kingdom, Cm 4345, May 1999); and consultation is taking place concerning revised sustainable development indicators and headline indicators to complement GDP (Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Sustainability Counts 1998 identifies 13 headline indicators. A full set of indicators will follow later, replacing Department of the Environment, Indicators of Sustainable Development for the UK, March 1996). See generally House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Second Report, The Greening Government Initiative (1997-98) HC 517-I, para 53, and The Green Ministers Committee First Annual Report 1998-99. Back

157   Government of Wales Act 1998, s 121. Back

158   Regional Development Agencies Act 1998, s 4(I)(e). The Government is also considering whether to incorporate sustainable development into the aims and objectives of all new public bodies when they are set up. See the Green Ministers Committee First Annual Report 1998-99, para 6.9 and 6.10. Back

159   The Unit has two main tasks-to lead the review of the UK sustainable development strategy and to oversee the greening of government. It has a cross-governmental remit and as such can be compared to the social exclusion unit and the women's unit. It is interesting to note that of the three units, all of which have cross-governmental responsibilities, the sustainable development unit is the only one not within the Cabinet Office. In Opposition the Labour Party said that the unit would be within the Cabinet Office (In Trust for Tomorrow, Report of the Labour Party Environment Policy Commission to the 1994 Party Conference). Arguably, placing the unit within the DETR reflects a perception that sustainable development is primarily the concern of the DETR, rather than government as a whole. However, it could been seen as more appropriate to place the unit within that department which has the most expertise in the area. The EAC stated in their second report of 1997-98 that they doubted whether location of the sustainable development unit in the Cabinet office would be an improvement. They recommended secondments to the sustainable development unit from across government in order for the unit to act as a genuine pan-governmental resource. See above n 10, at paras 32-33. Back

160   The EAC's remit is limited to Government departments and NDPBs so it will not be responsible for monitoring the Scottish Parliament nor the National Assembly for Wales. The Parliament and the Assembly will be responsible for those areas within their own competence. The Scotland Act 1998 does not include any provision for environmental monitoring. The Parliament could if it chose, create an environmental audit committee by standing order, but has not done so. See the Scotland Act 1998, s 22 and schedule 3, para 6 and Minutes of Proceedings, vol no 7, session 1, Tuesday 8 June 1999. There is no mention either, of environmental monitoring in the Government of Wales Act 1998. Under s 54 (1)(b) the National Assembly for Wales could establish an environmental audit committee, but it has not done so. Both the Parliament and the Assembly may decide that a different system of environmental monitoring would be more useful. See below n 99 and associated text. Back

161   EC regulation 1836/93. Back

162   See further M Power The Audit Explosion (London: DEMOS, 1994) p 25, M Power The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997) pp 84-86, and Ball and Bell on Environmental Law (4th ed, Blackstone Press Ltd, London 1997). For the use of this type of audit in central government see Green Ministers Committee First Annual Report 1998-99, chapter 4. Back

163   These are: Session 1997-98; Pre-Budget Report, HC 547; The Greening Government Initiative, HC 517-I; The Pre-Budget Report: Government Response and Follow Up, HC 985; Climate Change: UK Emission Reduction Targets and Audit Arrangements, HC 899; Session 1998-99; Multi-lateral Agreement on Investment, Volumes I and II. HC 58-I, HC 58-II; Climate Change; Government Response and Follow up, HC 88; The Comprehensive Spending Review and Public Service Agreements, HC 92; The Pre-Budget Report 1998, HC 95; Genetically Modified Organisms and the Environment; Co-ordination of Government Policy, Volumes I and II, HC 384 I, HC 384 II; The Greening Government Initiative 1999, Volumes I, II and III, HC 426 I, HC 426 II, HC 426 III; Energy Efficiency, Volumes I and II, HC 159 I and HC 159 II; The Budget 1999; Environmental Implications, HC 326. Back

164   The "lead department" is responsible for the drafting of the response. Which department that is varies according to the report-for example, for the Pre-Budget reports the lead department was HM Treasury, for the Greening Government report it was the DETR. Back

165   In some of their reports the EAC have looked at individual departments but this is used to give an example of the bigger picture rather than to hold that department and the minister to account. Back

166   See again In Trust for Tomorrow and the comparisons made between the Public Accounts Committee and an Environmental Audit Committee, above n 2. Back

167   Defined as "the independent examination of, and expression of opinion on, the financial statements of an enterprise". Councils of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ireland, and the Chartered Associationof Certified Accountants Explanatory Foreword (1980). Back

168   Audit does not have a precise definition so many systems of monitoring and checking, beyond those mentioned above, can be described as audit. See M Power The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification, above n 17, ch 1. Back

169   M Power The Audit Explosion, above n 17. Back

170   Ibid, pp 1-9. Back

171   For an example see below n 75 and associated text. Back

172   For example, assessing the effectiveness of a policy (as part of a value for money audit) can come close to questioning the policy itself, particularly if the objectives of the policy are not clearly defined. Back

173   See M Power The Audit Explosion, above n 17, pp 8-9 and 41-46. Back

174   Note that since the Government of Wales Act 1998 and the Scotland Act 1998, the audit of expenditure by the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Parliament is governed by the Government of Wales Act 1998 and the Scotland Act 1998 respectively. The Government of Wales Act 1998 provides for an Auditor General for Wales (s 90) and an Audit Committee (s 60) to be established. These bodies will exist alongside the C&AG and PAC who still have powers to audit the Assembly (see generally part IV of the Act). The Scotland Act 1998 provides that the Parliament shall establish an auditor (s 69). Back

175   See further, J F McEldowney, "The Control of Public Expenditure" in J Jowell and D Oliver The Changing Constitution (eds) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 3rd edn, 1995); I J Harden, "Money and the Constitution: Financial Control, Reporting and Audit" (1993) 13 LS 16. Back

176   See National Audit Act 1983, s 1(2). Back

177   See further, H Roseveare, The Treasury (London: Penguin, 1969), and M Wright, Treasury Control of the Civil Service 1854-74 (Oxford; Oxford University Press 1969). Back

178   Set out in HM Treasury, Government Accounting: a guide on accounting and financial procedures for the use of government departments (2 vols, loose leaf) (London: HMSO, 1989 and seven amendments 1989-97). Back

179   Generally, the accounting officer must secure a high standard of financial management in the department, which includes ensuring that financial considerations are taken fully into account in decisions on policy proposals. Back

180   See further F White and K Hollingsworth Audit, Accountability and Government (Oxford; Oxford University Press, 1999). Back

181   Ibid, ch 5. Back

182   Ibid, ch 6. Back

183   Ibid, ch 1. Back

184   See above n 32 and associated text. Back

185   In practice the minister only attends the first meeting of the newly formed committee for a few minutes. The membership therefore seems to be a symbolic one. Back

186   The Treasury Officer of Accounts is responsible for promoting a high standard of propriety, regularity and effective accountability across government. Back

187   See F White and K Hollingsworth above n 35, p 127. Back

188   Report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (1994) Appendix B, "Terms of Reference for the Study". Back

189   Hereafter referred to as "The Commissioner". The term "Commissioner", rather than auditor, was preferred because the proposed officer would have a policy evaluation role as well as an audit function. See above n 43, pp 2-3. Back

190   The Committee was not unanimous, however, and there was a dissenting opinion given by Bloc Quebecois MPs who agreed with the Auditor General that an environmental commissioner was unnecessary because the Auditor General could carry out those functions. Back

191   s 15.1. Back

192   This approach represented a middle way between the options favoured by the majority of the Committee on the one hand, and the dissenting members and the Auditor General on the other. Back

193   For example, initially the Commissioner had responsibility for two teams within the office-the Environment Canada team and the Sustainable Development Strategy team. It became apparent that it would also be more appropriate for the Natural Resources Canada team to be responsible to the Commissioner, as most of their work was environmental in nature. Back

194   Hereafter the 1997 Act. Back

195   Section 21.1. The section further provides that this aim may be achieved by, amongst other things, (a) the integration of the environment and the economy; (b) protecting the health of Canadians; (c) protecting ecosystems; (d) meeting international obligations; (e) promoting equity; (f) taking an integrated approach to planning and making decisions that take into account the environmental and natural resource costs of different economic options and the economic costs of different environmental and natural resource options; (g) preventing pollution; (h) respect for nature and the needs of future generations. Back

196   s 15.1 (2). Back

197   s 7 (2)(f) provides that the Auditor General should report on and bring to the attention of Parliament any cases where ". . . money has been expended without due regard to the environmental effects of those expenditures in the context of sustainable development". Back

198   s 23 (2)(a). Category I departments are defined as (a) any department named in schedule I to the Financial Administration Act, (b) any department in respect of which a direction has been made under subsection 24(3), and (c) any department, as defined in the Financial Administration Act, set out in the schedule. Back

199   See above n 52. This can be called environmental audit. These are vfm audits which focus on the fourth "E" of the environment. Consequently, the Commissioner is responsible for the vfm audits of those departments which have the biggest impact on the environment, namely, Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada. Back

200   s 8 (1). The Commissioner considers these "capacity building" opportunities, to step outside an audit framework and work directly with departments helping them strengthen their capacity to manage environmental and sustainable development issues. Examples include looking at Canada's international environmental commitments, managing for sustainable development and accounting for sustainable development. See Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development Annual Report, Foreword and main Points (1998) para 64 and chs 2, 5 and 7. Back

201   ss 22 and 23 (2)(b). This is not an ombudsman role and the Commissioner is not responsible for investigating individual complaints. He receives petitions from individuals concerning an environmental matter in the context of sustainable development, which he registers and then passes on to the minister concerned. The minister then has a specified time limit within which to respond. Back

202   See further White and Hollingsworth, above n 35, ch 5. Back

203   The Commissioner's personal independence was questioned by some when he was appointed, as he had spent a large part of his career within government. Environmentalists were concerned that there was not enough distance between him and those he was auditing. However, the Commissioner has demonstrated a willingness to be critical of government where necessary and is regarded highly by both those subject to his audit and others such as the Committee for Environment and Sustainable Development. Back

204   23(2) of the 1977 Act. Back

205   Of eight chapters, one related to the sustainable development strategies, three were concerned with substantive audits, and four were themed, "capacity building" chapters. The 1997 report set out his work plan. Back

206   In the UK although the C & AG attends every PAC hearing it is unusual for him to actually be called upon to give evidence. Back

207   Although the Auditor General is similarly restricted (s/he is only able to report three times a year) this does not provide justification for restricting the reporting powers of the Commissioner, though it may help to explain the limitation. Back

208   It should be noted however, that the Canadian PAC does not have quite the same reputation as its UK equivalent. Back

209   See above n 37 and associated text. Back

210   This may also have the added advantage of increasing the esteem with which the committee is held within Parliament. At present, as a new committee the EAC lacks the kudos associated with sitting on other committees such as the PAC or defence committee. Back

211   Joan Walley, Cynog Dafis and Norman Baker. Back

212   See above n 28 and associated text. Back

213   Departments can voluntarily produce their own sustainable development strategies. For example, the Department of Trade and Industry is developing a strategy which will set out how the department will promote sustainable development in pursuit of its own objectives. See Green Ministers Committee First Annual Report 1998-99, para 2.17. In addition, under Resource Accounting and Budgeting, performance measures and targets will cover sustainable development where it is covered in the department's aims and objectives, or in underlying targets in public service agreements or output and performance analysis. However, it should be noted that the output and performance analysis and the statement of resources which is analysed by aims and objectives accompany the departmental resource account but are not part of it and so will not be audited by the National Audit Office. See further The Green Ministers First Annual Report, para 2.30 and F White and K Hollingsworth. "Resource Accounting and Budgeting: the constitutional implications". [1997] PL437. Back

214   Cm 2068. The third annual report confirmed that by May 1994, all departments had prepared green housekeeping strategies, Cm 2549. Back

215   DETR A Better Quality of Life: A Strategy for Sustainable Development for the United Kingdom Cm 4345, May 1999. Back

216   The EAC recommends that the strategy should be auditable, a role which an environmental auditor could fulfil. See above n 10, para 65 and recommendation gg. Back

217   See the Committee's Greening Government Initiative 1999, above n 18, recommendation (h). Back

218   See above n 55, ch1, para 1.3. Back

219   See below n 95 and associated text. Back

220   Published in 1995. Back

221   The First Annual Report of the Green Ministers Committee was published in September 1999. See The Annual Report sets out where the government is in relation to sustainable development, particularly greening operations. Back

222   See above n 11 EAC's Second Report 1997-98, para 91 Back

223   See above n 18, Greening Government Initiative 1999Back

224   See above n 11 para 34 Back

225   See Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, The Government's Response to the Environmental Audit Committee Report on the Greening Government Initiative (1998), para 15. Back

226   See M Power The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification above n 17 pp 60-66. Back

227   The EAC recognise that a gap exists for periodic independent audit of government practice in appraising the implications of policies for sustainable development, and it called upon Green Ministers to sponsor such audits regularly, see above n 11 above, EAC Second Report 1997-98 at para 111. In its response to the report, the Government stated that "it will be for the individual departments to decide whether to seek independent audit of their own activities as set out in their annual reports or separate environmental reports". See above n 80 para 46. Back

228   See above n 52. Back

229   See above n 2. Back

230   See for an example of an environmental type vfm report, National Audit Office, It's a Small World: Local Government's Role as a Steward of the Environment, (London, 1997). Back

231   See F White and K Hollingsworth above n 53, pp 35-46. Back

232   Ibid, ch 4. Back

233   M Power The Audit Explosion above n 17, p 25. Back

234   See above n 56 and associated text. Back

235   This is similar to a system used in Ontario. See below n 100 and associated text. Back

236   Note that any select committee can use NAO reports as a source of information. However, only the PAC uses them to directly hold departments to account on the basis of the reports. Back

237   Similar issues have been raised in relation to departmentally related select committees having a role as audience for NAO reports. See White and Hollingsworth, above n 35, pp 134-137. Back

238   For example an NAO secondee works for the committee as committee specialist. Back

239   See M Power The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification above n 17, p 78. Back

240   This is the case for both the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development's staff and the staff of the Ontario Commissioner for the Environment. The NAO recruit graduates from different disciplines but all are trained as professional accountants. Back

241   See above n 38 and associated text. Back

242   See standing order 152 (A). Back

243   National Audit Act 1983, s 6(2). Back

244   See J Morison "The Case Against Constitutional Reform?" (1998) JLS 510. Back

245   See above n 15. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 9 January 2001