JLARC is the oversight agency of the Virginia General Assembly, established to evaluate the operations and performance of state agencies and programs.
JLARC and Legislative Oversight
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 Commission is composed of nine members of the House of Delegates, of whom at least five also serve on the House Appropriations Committee, and five members of the Senate, of whom two also serve on the Senate Finance Committee. Delegates are appointed by the Speaker of the House, and Senators by the Senate Rules Committee. The Chair is elected by a majority of Commission members and traditionally has rotated every two years between the House and Senate. The Auditor of Public Accounts is a nonvoting, ex officio member.
The Commission has a full-time staff. The staff Director is appointed by the Commission and confirmed by the General Assembly for a six-year term of office.
The objectives of the legislative oversight function performed by JLARC are:
- 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 decisionmaking. 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.