The NAO graduate blog has asked Usmaan Hussain, one of the NAO’s 2013 summer interns, to write a post for us. Below Usmaan shares his thoughts and impressions of a recent visit to the Public Accounts Committee.   

Chairs in Parliament
A few examples of phrases used by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC):

“You do evil.” “Vampire-death squid!” “No-one here can answer that! Why?”

As you can imagine, a PAC hearing can be quite enjoyable. Besides attempting to squeeze your face into the view of the camera, listening and watching the panel of witnesses attempting to conjure up an answer under immense pressure can be quite an experience in itself. To be fair, you have Margaret Hodge’s eyes searing in the witnesses! Then you have Richard Bacon who remains composed and is one to be reckoned with! His line of questioning is no doubt well thought out and one that catches out even the most senior of business figures!  Additionally, knowing that thousands of people are watching can be exceptionally intimidating, although some have handled themselves really well.

However, having worked on various projects during my time at the NAO, I can only wish to see those projects through right to the end. One can only imagine the feeling of accomplishment, listening to your work being consulted for the benefit of the public. Fellow NAO workers cannot always attend PAC hearings due to work commitments, but you will always see the TV in the corner of the Press Office department displaying that meeting with the speakers quite high. They all listen religiously whilst tapping away at their keyboard. The PAC hearing is the fruition of the NAO’s dedication and work.

Attending the event is in my opinion the best learning curve for an intern. By listening to the line of questioning, you can gauge the questions you need to ask yourself when beginning a value for money project. You can see how imperative statistics are. But more importantly, you can observe the following events and how firms, regulators and individuals react as a result of the NAO’s work and the PAC hearing. In the case of rural broadband, British Telecom have announced which areas will be connected to superfast broadband following heavy criticism for not doing so prior to the PAC hearing. Whether or not BT carry out the remaining recommendations of the PAC (such as becoming more transparent) is a different matter, one that may be up for a review in the upcoming years. So BT essentially have to comply or face additional pressure to do so in the future.

Regardless, I would like to think that I have contributed to the scrutiny of the next panel during my eight weeks at the NAO. As Amyas Morse has said to us all; “Thank you for your contribution to, what I hope you will agree is, the continuing success story of the NAO. I hope you all enjoy a well-deserved break.”

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