A year on from the MPs' expenses crisis, the Institute for Government has published an assessment of the state of the House of Commons' administration.
After the expenses scandal thrust the way MPs had been governing themselves into the spotlight, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) was hurriedly set up to outsource payment of MPs expenses, and later their salaries.
Our report, 'Firm foundations for a new politics?' assesses the ability of the rest of the Commons' administration to respond to the challenges it now faces.
We have been working with the Administration of the House of Commons and welcome the recent progress they have made. However, we conclude that change has not yet gone far enough. The House needs to do more to strengthen its governance and improve its capacity to manage change and and deal with risk.
Our recommendations cover three areas:
Accountability and scrutiny
To increase transparency and accountability, we recommend:
- the National Audit Office is given statutory powers to carry out their audit and value for money functions in the Commons
- both the Commission and Management Board include non-executive members
- a specially augmented Public Accounts Committee meets to scrutinise the administration of the House.
Capacity and capability
The House of Commons should be better equipped to to respond to the quantity and complexity of the changes ahead, by:
- putting new support in place to help the Speaker properly carry out the full range of responsibilities in this role
- including MPs on the House of Commons Commission with the skills, experience and time to take responsibility for financial management, reform and public engagement
- modestly expanding the Office of the Chief Executive - and giving it an explicit mandate to manage change and reform.
The House needs to rapidly improve its ability to identify and respond to risk in two areas where it is still particularly vulnerable:
- rules or practice that could pose a reputational risk to the House
- the strength of its financial systems and controls.