The Scottish Commission for Public Audit today published its report on a review of Audit Scotland’s corporate governance arrangements.
The review was prompted in part by a request from Audit Scotland’s board to consider the implications of a similar review of the governance of the National Audit Office in England. The Commission welcomed this as an appropriate opportunity, nine years into the life of the Scottish Parliament, to reflect on the operation of the public audit arrangements in Scotland.
The Commission recognises Audit Scotland’s key role in holding organisations to account for their use of public resources, and has made a number of proposals for reform to strengthen its governance.
The Commission’s recommendations include that: " In future the Auditor General for Scotland should be appointed on a single non-renewable term of eight years.
- The Audit Scotland board should review its role and focus. Legislation on its membership, and methods of appointing the members, should be revised to allow for a clear, independent, non-executive majority, with the Scottish Parliament to manage the appointment of non-executive members.
- Responsibilities in the current public audit structure are not clear or widely understood. The Scottish Government and the Parliament should consider together how a more thorough review could be accommodated within forthcoming legislation.
Convener of the Commission, Angela Constance MSP, said: “The Commission values highly the work done by Audit Scotland. We think that its governance arrangements need to be seen to conform to best practice as it is an organisation that sets the standards for the whole of the public sector.
"We have looked carefully at the current arrangements. Throughout our work we have acknowledged the importance of public confidence in the integrity of the audit process, and so have considered arrangements that respect and support the independence of the Auditor General.
"We believe that the proposals we make will strengthen the appropriate checks and balances to ensure that the arrangements are robust and transparent - they balance the independence of audit with accountability.”
The Scottish Commission for Public Audit is a public body established by the Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000 to scrutinise the expenditure of Audit Scotland.
Four Commission members are appointed by the Scottish Parliament’s Corporate Body and the fifth is the person who holds the office of Convener of the Parliament’s Audit Committee. The Commission currently comprises Convener Angela Constance MSP, Robert Brown MSP, Derek Brownlee MSP, George Foulkes MSP and Hugh Henry MSP.
The main responsibilities of the Scottish Commission for Public Audit are to:
- examine the proposed budget of Audit Scotland;
- appoint an accountable officer for Audit Scotland;
- appoint the auditors of Audit Scotland;
- initiate value for money examinations into Audit Scotland;
- consider the audit and value for money reports and ensure such reports are both laid before the parliament and published.
Under the current public audit structure in Scotland responsibilities are split between the Auditor General and the Accounts Commission, with both served by Audit Scotland.
The recommendations made by the Scottish Commission for Public Audit relate to issues that are the responsibility of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government. The Scottish Commission for Public Audit will discuss with the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament how best to take the proposals forward.