Regular reporting to ministries or legislative bodies
Despite differences in the institution(s) to which the regulator is accountable, for the ACCC, the AER, the ORR and ERSAR, the annual report on the activities completed is the key tool for reporting to oversight institutions. Annual reports provide a high degree of visibility in terms of financial accountability and in ensuring that regulators provide information on their operations. In particular, the ACCC, the AER and the ORR annual reports provide an overview of progress in meeting the regulators’ objectives, thus providing some of the essential information that oversight institutions would need to hold regulators accountable (Box 2.4).
Box 2.4. Reports to parliament and ministers
The ORR annual report is addressed to Parliament and identifies some of the key actions that the regulator has undertaken to meet the strategic objectives identified in the business plan.
The ERSAR annual report is addressed to both the executive and parliament. An Advisory Council composed of key government and non-government stakeholders provides an opinion on the report before the submission to the oversight bodies.
The ACCC and the AER annual reports are addressed to the executive. The reports provide an easy-to-read overview of performance towards meeting the key goals set by the ACCC and AER in the corporate plan. The reports also provide information on cases litigated and their outcomes, infringement notices paid, use of agency coercive powers, mergers. Reporting on performance uses a framework that details:
- • Performance drivers
- • Objectives
- • Programmes in place to achieve these objectives
- — Programme objectives
- — Goals
Source: ORR (2015), “Annual Report and Accounts 2014-15”, http://orr.gov.uk/ data/assets/pdf file/0019/18154/annual-report-2014-15-web.pdf (accessed 24 July 2015); ACCC and AER (2014), “Annual Report 2013-14”, https://www.accc.gov.au/publications/accc-aer-annual-report/accc-aer-annual-report-2013- 14 (accessed 24 July 2015).
Supreme audit institutions (SAIs) also play an important role in providing a third-party check on the financial performance of the regulator. At a minimum, SAIs can be the financial auditors of the regulator. The UK National Audit Office (NAO) certifies the financial statements of the ORR. The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) is the mandated auditor for the ACCC and AER. Its purpose is to provide the Parliament with an independent assessment of selected areas of public administration, and assurance about public sector financial reporting, administration, and accountability. This is primarily done by conducting performance audits, financial statement audits, and assurance reviews, ensuring the financial accounts. In Portugal, the Tribunal de Contas is the auditor for ERSAR.
The role of SAIs can go beyond the certification of the regulators’ accounts and, depending on the SAI’s mission and role across the public
sector, SAIs can assess the performance of the regulator in the relation to other public bodies that are involved in the sector/industry overseen by the regulator. For example, in 2011, the NAO recognised that the ORR had significantly developed the methods it uses to judge efficiency but the effectiveness of these methods depended on the information provided by the publicly-owned rail network monopoly (NAO, 2011).