Prior to March 2011, the Centre for Public Sector Governance, Accountability and Performance (CPSGAP) was known as Public Sector Governance and Accountability Research Centre (PSGARC). The initiative for the establishment of the PSGARC stemmed from a resolution of the 2003 Biennial Conference of the Australasian Council of Public Accounts Committees (ACPAC) in Melbourne. This meeting, which included representatives of Parliamentary Public Accounts Committees from Britain, Ireland, Canada, and Africa as well as Australasia and the Pacific, and also from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and the World Bank Institute (WBI), resolved to support the development of a global network of Public Accounts or like Committees to share knowledge, improve cooperation, develop common standards for accountability and governance and to provide training and support for members of Public Accounts Committees and their staffs.
In furtherance of this resolution, ACPAC appointed a Working Party to investigate the feasibility of creating independent, academic based research centres focused on public accountability and governance particularly focussing on the role of the legislature. Consequently, the Working Party approached the then Dean of the former Faculty of Law and Management of La Trobe University, Professor Greg O’Brien, to determine whether the university would be interested in establishing the first such ‘Centre of Excellence’.
When established the centre was a world first on two levels: its primary focus was on legislators, rather than on the bureaucracy, and both academics and legislators were involved with the Centre, so that it could offer ‘peer’ support. It had a high priority on research into public accountability issues. In conjunction with accounting firm KPMG, the Centre published a report on the practices and procedures of parliamentary public accounts committees (PAC) throughout Australasia. The publication, titled ‘The Comparative Study into Public Accounts Committee Practices In Australia and New Zealand’ was launched at the Australian Parliament in February 2007.
As well as this sort of leading-edge research report, the Centre earned a solid reputation for its Summer Residency Program for Public Accounts Committees – an annual event involving parliamentary and audit office members from parliaments around the world. The training program was run in 2010 in association with other organisations with an interest in legislative strengthening, including the World Bank Institute, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Centre for Democratic Institutions. It included carefully designed study visits to Commonwealth, state and territory parliaments/legislatures in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney, and allowed parliamentarians from around the world to examine in-depth issues related to parliamentary oversight, public financial scrutiny and the role of PACs (and similar committees).