Audit report accountability must sharpen up, says Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee


A fundamental shift in the way public bodies and the Scottish Government view and respond to audit reports is essential, according to a legacy report published today by Holyrood’s Public Audit & Post Legislative Committee.

The report says that, to break the wasteful cycle of recurring themes appearing in audit reports, public bodies and the Scottish Government must now be required to respond formally and then act on recommendations of the Auditor General. There should be consequences if they fail to do so.

At the very least, there should be justification if action is not taken, which is recordable and tracked through a formal process.

The Committee also stresses that it finds unacceptable that, in the face of a critical audit report, public bodies often react defensively. Instead of tackling concerns head on and focussing on improvement, public bodies often down play their failings.

These findings arise as the Public Audit Committee reflects on the ‘change and improvement’ agenda it has pursued over the past five years. 

Convener of the Public Audit & Post Legislative Committee, Jenny Marra MSP said;

“Our committee hasn’t seen any evidence that Audit Scotland recommendations are being followed through. In some cases, a public body will be subjected to repeated section 22 reports from the Auditor General – a clear sign that they are just not getting to grips with the issues that need to be addressed. This is disappointing.

“A formal framework which includes acknowledgement that things have gone wrong and which lays out a recorded process through which lessons will be learned, shared and acted upon is now essential.”

The report also says that a number of key cross cutting themes*, which have at their root systemic challenges across the public sector, risk the financial sustainability and effectiveness of public services, if they are not addressed.

It says that solutions must be collaborative, avoid siloed working and be part of a long-term strategy and forward planning.

Jenny Marra MSP continued; “The same themes - failed IT projects, leadership challenges, poor governance arrangements - continue to come up time and time again. This is concerning and suggests that lessons aren’t being learnt.

“We know these issues can’t be resolved easily, but it is vital that the Scottish Government and leaders across the public sector take solid steps to tackle them. Public money must be spent wisely and public services must become sustainable over the long term.”

*leadership challenges; poor workforce planning; weak governance arrangements; failed IT projects and an absence of key data.

Ends –

To read recommendations in relation to individual bodies the Committee has scrutinised during the Session – please click here to view the full report.

Media information
Hilda Stewart: 0131 348 5378

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