Accountability, Integrity and Administration: A Rock-Solid Framework for the House of Assembly in Newfoundland and Labrador.

AuthorGeorge, Kim Hawley

Following a series of audits in 2006 that discovered spending irregularities and resulted in fraud charges against several MHAs, a House of Assembly employee and an external supplier, Newfoundland and Labrador's House of Assembly put into place a new framework for accountability and oversight. In this article, the author outlines this framework and other accountability mechanisms designed to restore public confidence in their legislature's operations.


A discussion of audit practices in the Newfoundland and Labrador Legislature first requires a journey back to the (not-so-distant) past. After all, who we are today is inextricably tied to the events of yesterday.

In 2006, a series of audits and subsequent reports from the Auditor General showed poor financial controls at the House of Assembly. As a result of those audits, four Members (involving the three political parties represented in the House at the time), an employee of the Legislature and an external supplier were charged with various criminal offences including fraud over $5000, fraud on government/influence peddling and breach of trust. Individuals were convicted and served jail time.

Subsequent to the reports of the Auditor General, Chief Justice Derek Green was appointed to conduct a review of the Legislature. In June 2007, Chief Justice Green issued a report entitled "Rebuilding Confidence: Report of the Review Commission on Constituency Allowances and Related Matters" ("Green Report"). (1)

The Green Report included 80 recommendations as well as a proposed Bill and subordinate legislation. The House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act ("HOAAIAA") and accompanying Members' Resources and Allowances Rides ("the Rules") were passed unanimously by the House and came into force in June 2007. They established a statutory framework to improve controls within the Legislature; to provide greater oversight; and to improve accountability with respect to the use of public funds by elected officials.

The Executive Summary of the Green Report concludes as follows:

Reform must include a reform of attitude and the creation and maintenance of an institutional culture of responsibility. Transparency and accountability are the building blocks of public confidence. There must be visible checks and balances in the system if there is to be any hope of rebuilding confidence in it. The technical implementation of specific institutional reforms will not by itself restore public confidence. Rather, that confidence will be restored by the willingness and constant dedication of our leaders to foster and maintain, by example, the standards expected of those who discharge the critically important and difficult responsibilities of public office. (2) It is upon this foundation that the House of Assembly operates today. In this article, I will outline the comprehensive accountability structure recommended by the Green Report and subsequently adopted by the House of Assembly. I will also provide examples of associated structures which support and enhance the culture of transparency and accountability in the administration of the Newfoundland and Labrador Legislature.

Administration and Management Structures

The House of Assembly Management Commission ("the Commission") is the group of elected officials with fiduciary responsibilities for the administration of the Legislature. It is required to act in a non-partisan manner to establish and implement financial and administrative policies for the House of Assembly Service and the Statutory Offices. The Commission is constituted at the beginning of a new General Assembly, and continues when the Assembly dissolves until the new membership is constituted. Its complete range of responsibilities is outlined in Part III of the HOAAIAA. Specifically, the Commission has a duty and a responsibility to:

* oversee the finances of the Legislature, including its budget, revenues, expenses, assets and liabilities;

* review and approve the administrative, financial and human resource and management policies of the House of Assembly Service and its Statutory Offices;

* implement and periodically review and update financial and management policies applicable to the House of Assembly Service and its Statutory Offices;

* give direction respecting matters that the Commission considers necessary for the efficient and effective operation of the House of Assembly Service and its Statutory Offices;

* make and keep current rules respecting the proper administration of allowances for Members and reimbursement and payment of their expenditures;

* submit an annual report to the House of Assembly respecting the Commission's decisions and activities; and

* exercise other powers given to the Commission and perform other duties imposed on the Commission.

Audit Committee: The HOAAIAA requires the establishment of an Audit Committee ("the Committee") to assist the Commission in fulfilling its financial and compliance oversight responsibilities. The Committee reviews the financial statements and other financial information of the House to ensure the transparency and integrity of the House's systems of internal and disclosure controls and published financial information. The Audit Committee is also charged with fostering adherence to, and encouraging continuous improvement of, the House's policies, procedures...

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