For those who don’t know me, my name is Matt Davies and I am working as a Communications Officer with the Wales Audit Office. I work alongside a number of other colleagues in the Comms team and my main focus is around helping get our national reports communicated most effectively with our stakeholders and working on projects like our quarterly newsletter and our “offline” messaging.
I will admit; I came to the organisation a little unaware of the huge role the Audit Office plays in the public sector in Wales. It’s been my biggest learning curve just fathoming the massive impact of all of our work, ensuring that every facet of public spending is accounted for and managed under the right scrutiny.
This was really highlighted to me by the event I recently attended – the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) Annual Conference. I suppose I was really here at an opportune time as well, as we are currently in the process of sending out our Annual Improvement Reports (AIRs) which have a key role to play in the way we scrutinise local government.
The AIRs are important reports that pull together the results of our audit and assessment work over the last year at each authority, providing an overview of its performance. We then also look at the plans that are in place for improvement for the next year and assess whether or not they will meet the statutory requirements to “secure continuous improvement”. Our job in the Communications team is to put these reports online and liaise with the relevant authorities’ media/press teams and look at ways to promote them further.
That’s a lot of technical jargon, but it essentially means that we are making sure that the authorities in question are being accountable, well governed and are planning for continuing improvement through the year. This was further underlined to me when The Auditor General got up and did his speech saying “The message is clear – whatever else you consider reducing, your focus on governance and accountability cannot slip.”
Why is it important that the Wales Audit Office attends?
Mark Woods and I went along to the event for one main reason, the opportunity to connect face-to-face with some of the key stakeholders we work with on a daily basis. It is important that we are as visible as possible. If we are to be able to speak with authority on good practice and be the guardians of good governance, then we need to make sure that we are not hidden away behind our computers but are open and accessible. Events like these are a great way for us to talk about our work, not only our audits but also the guidance we produce – from case studies, to shared learning seminars there is a host of work taking place that is driving improvement and we want as many as possible to attend.
The event also offered me an opportunity to talk with other members of the Wales Audit Office who were present at the conference, giving me a glimpse into the world they operate in. I was able to talk to people like Mike Palmer (our Sustainable Development Manager), Alan Morris (Sector Lead) and our Chair Isobel Garner about their thoughts on the conference and get a sense for what was happening ‘behind the curtain’, as Mark and I weren’t involved in any of the workshop sessions.
What did I think?
I had a great time at my first conference, and I know it’s something that we are planning on doing more of, and I think it’s a great way of helping show off what we do. We had loads of reports available for people to take away with them (the Local Government Use of Technology report from 2012 being the most popular) and it was interesting to meet such a variety of people. The fact that the conference had a bit of ‘edge’, given the frank exchange of views from all the speakers, made it all the more appealing as everyone was very forthcoming with their opinions and views.
So if you see us at a future event, drop by and say hello, it will be great to see you!
You can see more of the discussion via the #council2025 https://twitter.com/hashtag/council2025?src=hash
About the author:
Matt Davies is one of the Communication Officers with the WAO helping support the day to day activities of the Communications team, including the e-newsletter and the website. He comes to the organisation from a variety of different industries which include student politics, social housing and sport.