Legislative oversight is an important part of government accountability. It is how the Virginia General Assembly ensures that the funds it has appropriated are used effectively and efficiently by state and local agencies. Legislative oversight is also how the General Assembly assesses the performance of the agencies and programs it creates. The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission is a key component of the legislative oversight function in Virginia. The duties of the Commission are authorized by the Code of Virginia.
Objectives of JLARC’s legislative oversight
Program and agency savings
Program cost savings are frequently the product of legislative oversight studies, and are usually the most visible of all possible outcomes. Just as important are the opportunities for savings which may result from the implementation of recommended efficiencies or adoption of program alternatives. In some instances, changes may result in more spending to achieve greater effectiveness.
Improved efficiency and effectiveness
JLARC is required by statute to make recommendations on ways state agencies may achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in their operations. Achieving efficiency means finding ways to accomplish the same tasks at reduced cost; achieving effectiveness means findings ways to better accomplish program and agency objectives. The fact that a regular program of legislative oversight exists also stimulates agency self-evaluation, which may bring about improved operations.
An informed legislature
Oversight studies help inform citizen legislators about agencies, programs, and activities. A primary objective for JLARC is to gather, evaluate, and report information and make recommendations that can be used in legislative decision making. Reports provide information that may be useful to legislators during deliberation on legislation, during committee hearings, and in responding to constituent questions or requests for assistance.
Compliance with legislative intent
The oversight function helps ensure that laws are being carried out as the legislature intended. In some cases, intent may not have been clearly understood by program administrators; in other cases, statements of intent may have been ignored. In those instances where legislative intent is not explicit in statute, an oversight study can assess and report to the General Assembly on how an agency has decided to implement its mission.