Increased transparency in financial payments made to Scottish Government and public body staff, and the decision taking processes of the Scottish Government, has emerged as a key theme in a report published today by Public Audit Committee.
The report is a reflection on the Public Audit Committee’s Session 3 reports up to October 2010 and highlights issues the committee have repeatedly recommended action on. The key themes identified in the report are transparency, data collection and measuring quality and governance.
The committee highlighted its concerns in holding the Scottish Government and public bodies to account on the financial payments made to departing staff and the transparency of senior civil servant salaries. It cites as examples the Session 3 reports: The First Scotrail passenger rail franchise and the 2008-2009 Audit of Transport Scotland.
Committee Convener Hugh Henry MSP said:
“As session 3 draws to a close, the Public Audit Committee believes it should reflect upon its work and draw together in one report, those issues on which it has repeatedly recommended action should be taken on.
“One of the three key themes we have identified is transparency, particularly in the financial payments made to Scottish Government staff as well as the way that the government takes decisions. We found that the use of compromise and confidentially agreements constrained the committee’s ability and that of Parliament to effectively scrutinise the use of public money. We believe the presumption should be for disclosure. ”
“The committee also found that issues surrounding governance arose repeatedly in our reports. This was sometimes through poor performances at individual or board level being allowed to continue without challenge, or through the lack of clear measureable outcomes being identified at the start of the policy or project. The committee believes that there is often a failure to tackle poor performance and this needs to be addressed rather than shifting the problem sideways. This was evident in the committee’s report on the 2006/07 Audit of Western Isles Health Board. The committee had further concerns about the management and scrutiny of major capital projects. Given the current financial climate both these areas of risk need to be tackled if limited public funds are to be used to their best advantage. ”
The committee also believes that improvements in data collection at a national level are essential if public bodies are to achieve efficiency savings. The committee cites as example, reports on free personal and nursing care; review of palliative care services in Scotland, and overview of mental health services.
The committee wanted updates on a number of specific issues in reports including:
This is the first time the Public Audit Committee has considered its reports published over a session to identify whether there are key lessons for future governments. The committee refers to individual reports and comments on those areas where future governments may wish to consider changing their working practices to address areas where the committee has repeatedly identified areas for improvement.