THE Government should take seriously the Director of Audit's call for access to the Provisional Airport Authority's (PAA) accounts. The PAA has been funded entirely from the public coffers; it is sitting on more than $14 billion of public money. Yet its internal operations have been so cloaked in secrecy that its former chief executive could be given a $5.5 million golden handshake, initially without explanation. Brian Jenney and his team, on behalf of the public, should be allowed to scrutinise the accounts. As it stands, the authority remains virtually unaccountable to the public. The PAA Ordinance demands only that the authority appoint a professional accountant and that it should send copies of his report to the Governor and the Legislative Council. A glance at the 1992-93 annual report and at the auditor's statement shows his brief has been limited. The auditor has provided a balance sheet and cash-flow statement, as if he were dealing with a registered company. A report by Mr Jenney's department would have looked rather different. The Director of Audit comments on how money is spent. His ''value for money audit'' is then scrutinised by legislators in the Public Accounts Committee. By the time the PAC has finished with it - as the board of the University of Science and Technology discovered to its embarrassment - any carelessness with public funds will be a matter of public debate. Under the present arrangements Legco could, if it wished, set up a select committee to examine the performance of the PAA and delve deeper into the accounts. But legislators would not normally do so unless there are obvious grounds for concern. In the case of the PAA, where there has been no shortage of criticism, legislators may yet be tempted to set up a committee. But such examination should be automatic. The Government's excuse for doing nothing is that the arrangements are in line with the practice for the Mass Transit Railway Corporation and the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation. But times have changed since those bodies were brought into operation. Legco is not the rubber stamp it once was. It is encouraging to note that the Government is considering giving the Director of Audit access to the accounts of the future Airport Authority. But it is the PAA which is spending the big money now. There is a need to amend the existing ordinance to give the Director of Audit access to its accounts from its inception. He should also be given access to the accounts of the MTRC before it starts building the airport railway. Billions of dollars of taxpayers' money are being spent and the public has a right to be assured they are being spent wisely.