Y Pwyllgor Cyfrifon Cyhoeddus a Gweinyddiaeth Gyhoeddus

Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Adam Price
Mark Isherwood Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Mike Hedges
Natasha Asghar
Rhianon Passmore

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Adrian Crompton Archwilydd Cyffredinol Cymru, Archwilio Cymru
Auditor General for Wales, Audit Wales

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Fay Bowen Clerc
Lucien Wise Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Owain Davies Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:16.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:16. 

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Bore da. Croeso, pawb. Good morning and welcome, everybody, to this morning's meeting of the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee. No apologies have been received from Members. Do Members have any declarations of registrable interest you wish to declare? No. Thank you very much indeed. In which case, we can move on.

2. Papurau i'w nodi
2. Papers to note

We have a number of papers to note, the first being a letter from Estyn, to us, regarding the covering teachers' absence inquiry. We wrote to Estyn on 22 February to seek their views on the Auditor General for Wales's report on covering teachers' absence in Wales. Estyn wrote to us to explain that, during inspection and monitoring activities, teacher absence was considered, but the information was not collated. They note that headteacher feedback described finding appropriately qualified staff as, quote, 'very challenging'. The letter provides some information on supply teachers, their availability, agency fees, the suitability and quality of agency staff, the new booking platform and framework, and the professional development of supply staff. Therefore, Members, can I invite you to comment on the correspondence, or otherwise agree to note the letter, the contents of which will be reflected in our report on the inquiry? So, Members, any comments? Natasha.

Thank you so much, Chair. I'm happy to note the letter. There's one element of the letter that I just wanted to raise with you and the committee. Under the subheading 'The new booking platform and its impact', it states that

'Senior leader are often unaware of new booking platform or have not made much use of it because of the lack of availability of supply teachers'.

Is there something that the Welsh Government can do to potentially just raise awareness, potentially target those particular senior leaders to that website, just so that they're made aware of it, so in future it perhaps may not create so much either confusion or lack of awareness on it?

It's just a form of support that can be provided. If there's a lack of awareness, surely something can be done to potentially raise awareness on it. And I wasn't too sure if it would be a Welsh Government matter to potentially promote, or whether it's local authority, but just somewhere along the chain, at least people are made aware, particularly in senior leadership roles, because, ultimately, that information will trickle down. That was the theory behind it.

If Members are agreeable and they feel at least a Welsh Government steer would be helpful—. If there are no objections, we can incorporate that. Rhianon.

Thank you very much. I think the first point that I wanted to make was, I am surprised there is no collation of supply teachers from Estyn, bearing in mind the importance in terms of class management, and in terms of the ability or lack of ability for agencies in their continuous professional development and access to in-service training days. So, it seems to be falling into a gap of a need there.

The booking platform point that I was going to touch upon as well—there have been issues in terms of being able to effectively cascade this out. There are some issues around availability, and I think that's picked up in here, Natasha. There is a lot of work going on in terms of rolling that out, and it is around local authorities and Welsh Government, both of those points. It's an ongoing process, and it's embedding at the moment, but there is still a huge monopoly in terms of agency staff and in terms of being able to roll over onto a more national framework, and it's work in progress. But I do think that we need to be absolutely sighted on the amount of money, through learning management systems, that schools are spending on agency staff, and how this can improve the overall professionality in schools is really important. So, my point, really, is around the responsibility for collation of data around supply staff. I don't know if there's any comment on that, because it seems absolutely imperative that that is being collated, and I'm not sure who's doing that, if it's not Estyn. I don't know if, Adrian, you can comment on that.


I don't know the answer, I'm afraid, Rhianon, to that specific point, but I think it's a perfectly valid one for the committee to reflect on. I'm assuming you'll be preparing a report on this, so both that issue and the one that Natasha raised earlier, I think, should be built into your response. And I think you're right, Rhianon, on the point that Natasha raised. I suspect some of that is down to the fact that the platform is being piloted, it's not common across the whole of the country yet, so that may explain some of the lack of awareness in some areas.

Thank you. Any other thoughts? My only thought, and this may be reflected in the work already done, certainly in my own experience—. I referred to my son in the past, when he worked as a supply teacher that was supporting pupils with additional learning needs—in my experience, often, the use of supply teachers can be steered towards that role. So, what impact or consideration has been given to the impact of current and possible future developments on the provision of support for individual and collective pupils with additional learning needs? No comments. Right. Okay, well, in that case, are you otherwise content to note the letter? Thank you very much indeed. 

In which case, we move on to our second paper to note, a letter from the director general for economy, energy and transport on the post-completion monitoring of the economic resilience fund. The Welsh Government agreed to provide updates on this following our scrutiny of the Welsh Government 2020-21 accounts. The letter notes that the Welsh Government undertook survey-based monitoring and post-completion monitoring. This showed that 6,160 of the 17,906 surveys issued were returned, a 34 per cent response rate, thereby exceeding the 30 per cent target. It also showed that almost half of the post-completion monitoring of cases, 48 per cent, had been completed. The Welsh Government previously told us that it was difficult to set an end date for this work, which we acknowledged, whilst noting the importance of it being done in as timely a way as possible. The letter provides an update on the number and value of the cases recovered, with 76 cases noted with an aggregate value of £2.4 million. It notes the potential value of right-offs concerning businesses that have entered some form of insolvency at around £3.8 million, which relates to 100 awards. Of these, it has written off 10 cases with a value combined of £416,000, where the insolvencies are complete. For the remainder, and as part of the standard debt management procedures, it is waiting to see, quote,

'if there'll be any dividend distribution to creditors in relation to these cases.'

The letter doesn't set out whether they've identified any instances of recoveries as a result of fraud, as they did in previous updates. We may, therefore, wish to consider asking the Welsh Government to provide this information in future updates. 

So, can I invite Members to comment on the letter, or otherwise agree to note it? Any comments from Members? Rhianon. 


I think you've already answered my question. So, yes, is there a box in terms of actual criminal cases around fraud? I think it's self-explanatory. I was going to ask: is the £400,000 which has been written off anything to do with the £3.348 million of ongoing insolvency? But I think it does state here, which I've missed, that that a separate box again, and that some of that may be written off or not. So, I just wanted clarification around that. So, under the paragraph 'ERF Write-off', which is what's confused me, that figure of £3.348 million is a separate box again to the write-offs, isn't it? It's additional too because it's in process. Can I just get clarification on that?

I think you're right that that's a separate figure, Rhianon, but leave it with me and I'll certainly check. But you may wish to get some clarification from the Welsh Government. The general point for me, I think, is what would have happened if the Welsh Government had been more successful in its surveys. It's a pretty low level of return. And so I think testing them on whether they are comfortable with this level of a return would be important. And linked to that, we're aware that the Welsh Government's internal audit team has done some work on this area, and completed it a few months ago. They concluded, I understand, that there was a pretty clear commitment to this activity, with funding in place for the current year. But the committee might want to seek some assurance from the Government that that commitment remains, given the other financial and staffing pressures that we're aware the Welsh Government has faced in the last couple of months. 

Yes, just to respond to that. So, my understanding from this is that the £3.348 million—it's very different to £400,000, isn't it, bearing in mind it's a £352 million total pot, so it's a much smaller figure, but it's still in the millions. I just want reassurance that that's nothing to do with any ongoing cases with the £406,000. I don't think that's the case, but if we can seek assurance, Chair, around that, just so that we're knowledgeable, I think that would be really useful. And as I stated, in terms of—. Are there any ongoing criminal fraud cases, because if not, it would be surprising out of a pot of £352 million that's been expended that there isn't anything that's being pursued by Welsh Government. That would surprise me. Okay, thank you. 

My only question was—. I appreciate the response that we've received, and I would be happy to note, but if we are going back to Welsh Government, the only question that I would appreciate to have included in there is that, even though we have the amounts, I'd be curious to know what sectors they've invested in. I can understand data protection, but if they had surveys back, it would be interesting to know if the majority, for example, of some the cases for which they've given us breakdowns number by number, for example seven out of those seven—how many are tech companies, how many are in the agricultural field, how many are in the environmental field? Just a bit of a breakdown, just to see where their interests have been laid previously. And if that's a common denominator, that, potentially, in one particular sector, that's where they've been investing, and that's where it's been making the highest loss, it would just be interesting to see where the actual failures have been, in which particular sectors, if it's possible to ask. 

Okay. I'm sure we could do that. If there are no further comments, are Members otherwise content to note, and then we can incorporate those points in the response, which is already, I think, proposed to address the fraud issue?

Our next item, or paper to note, is a letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care on the independent reviews of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. The Cabinet Secretary has written to us to clarify comments by the chair of the health board at our meeting with them of 7 March. The letter explains the agreed process for handling reports from each of the Welsh Government commissioned reviews. The letter explains that the Welsh Government has commissioned 10 independent reviews on a series of key areas, including, but not limited to, patient safety, workforce, mental health, and vascular services. The letter also refers the committee to the recently published year 1 progress report, published on 28 February. Again, do Members have any comments, or are they content to note the letter?


Thank you. I'll just comment, on the one hand, last week, my wife's experience was a very professional and kind workforce at every level. But then only last night, I got an e-mail from somebody with terminal cancer, who after waiting 11 hours in the accident and emergency department was sent home and had to come back and wait again 13 hours the next day. So, there's good news and bottlenecks. But that's just a personal comment.

Okay, the third paper to note is—. I'll just jump back, which is never easy when we're doing it online. Sorry, we've done the third paper. The fourth paper to note is a letter from the Permanent Secretary on the Welsh Government's annual report and accounts 2022-23. The Permanent Secretary has written to the committee, following our scrutiny of the annual report and accounts for 2022-23 on 20 March 2024, with additional information set out in a series of annexes. The letter also includes some further information relating to our public appointments inquiry. The committee will have an opportunity later in today's meeting to discuss these issues in more depth, as part of our consideration of our future report on this. Again, could I invite Members to note this letter? Thank you, Members.

That concludes the papers to note, I believe. So, I propose that, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix) that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of today's—. Oh, excuse me one moment—I have missed an item, I believe. Yes, an additional paper to note before I move on. We have received a letter from the director general for economy, energy and constitution on Gilestone Farm. This letter follows our letter of 26 February, seeking clarification on a series of points. The letter provides further information about the valuation of the land and the income generated by the farm business tenancy in place. We will hear further evidence—. We were to have heard further evidence today from the chair, I believe, of Talybont-on-Usk town and community council regarding this issue, but I now believe that all witnesses will instead be providing written evidence. So, I invite Members to note the letter. Are Members content? Thank you, Members.

3. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
3. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting


bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).


that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

So, back to the future, from my having jumped ahead, in which case—. Excuse me one moment. Right. I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix), that we resolve to meet in private for the remainder of today's meeting. Are all Members content? I note that Members are content and would therefore be grateful if the clerking team could take us into private session.


Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 09:35.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 09:35.