On 22 November, 82 senior leaders from across the Welsh public sector attended the Shaping Accountability in Wales for future generations event, a joint venture between the Future Generations Commissioner and the Auditor General for Wales.
The event was an opportunity for the Auditor General and Commissioner to share their latest thinking on how accountability arrangements in Wales need to change, as well as providing an update on:
- how the Wales Audit Office is using the response to the Auditor General’s consultation on the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (the Act) to inform the future of audit; and
- how the work programme of the Future Generations Commissioner is developing following early engagement with public bodies, Public Services Boards and wider stakeholders.
Delegates were invited to share their thoughts on how to provide insight, challenge, support and assurance in relation to the Act.
Outputs from the day
- Watch Huw Vaughan Thomas’ speech, ‘The Shape of Things to Come’ [Opens in new window]
- Watch Sophie Howe’s speech, ‘Transformation, Not Tick Box’ [Opens in new window]
- View Eleanor Beer’s graphic visualisation of the day [JPEG 125KB Opens in new window]
- Read the Shaping Accountability Storify [Opens in new window]
- Take a look at the photos from the day on Facebook [Opens in new window]
Main outcomes and actions
The outcomes from the day and actions by the Commissioner and Auditor General have been summarised as follows:
- Both the Auditor General and Commissioner are developing a set of principles to establish shared expectations and outline the way in which they will work together, in response to calls for alignment between regulators and commissioners. They will also work closely with the other inspectorates and commissioners over the coming weeks and months.
- The Future Generations Commissioner is currently discussing the priority areas that will provide a focus for her office’s work with a range of stakeholders, after delegates called for the Commissioner and Auditor General to engage and listen to adopt the right approach.
- The Wales Audit Office will develop new tools and methods that provide insight in a new context, including pilot work and distinguishing between individual organisations and taking a wider view across the system as a whole.
- The Wales Audit Office’s Good Practice Exchange team will play a vital role in supporting the learning process, after a call for sharing resources and information to help those who are struggling.
- Delegates highlighted certain systemic barriers to progress, such as short term funding horizons and unhelpful indicators. There needs to be a more enabling, permissive environment in order for organisations to implement the Act. The Auditor General and Commissioner will continue to support organisations to take well-managed risks, instead of acting as barriers to success.
- Both organisations will focus on behaviours and outcomes, rather than measures, recognising that public bodies don’t necessarily have all the information to hand to make decisions or implement new ways of working.
- Each organisation’s response to the Act will be broken down into manageable chunks, with the first year of the WAO’s audit work examining the ‘how’ - the understanding of what needs to change and the level of ambition.
- The Future Generations Commissioner is keen to be a champion, particularly for those who are trying to implement the Act but come up against barriers which need to be tackled.
What was most evident from the day was that the real value will come from maintaining focus on the spirit of the Act, rather than on the detail.