The adequacy of the audit and accountability arrangements of those who will be delivering the proposed new devolved powers in future is to be the focus of work launched today by Public Audit Committee. Organisations such as the BBC, Department of Work and Pensions, British Transport Police and the Crown Estate will, under the UK Government proposals, report to the Scottish Parliament or will have a specific Scottish focus with the further devolution of some of their activities.
Convener of the Public Audit Committee Paul Martin MSP said:
“The proposals for more devolution involve the transfer to Scotland of a number of new powers currently delivered by UK organisations. As the Committee in the Scottish Parliament responsible for scrutinising how well the public pound is being spent, our Committee wants to help make sure we get the accountability process for these new powers right from day one.
“The people of Scotland will expect a strong and independent audit system to be in place to report on how these organisations are spending money to the benefit of Scotland. As a Committee we are looking for views on how to best meet that expectation, looking at what, when and how the performance and expenditure of those who will be delivering the proposed new powers in Scotland should be reported to the Scottish Parliament.”
The Committee has today issued a call for views on the adequacy of the audit and accountability arrangements proposed in the UK command paper: Scotland in the United Kingdom: An enduring settlement.
This examination builds upon the work of the Committee during 2012 – 2013 when it considered the framework for auditing the Scottish Rate of Income Tax, which begins operating on 1 April 2016.
The questions being raised by the Committee include:
- what should be the role of Audit Scotland and the National Audit Office in scrutinising the bodies listed below?
- where should any agreed audit and accountability arrangements be set out?
- where bodies are required to lay their annual reports and accounts before the Scottish Parliament, should those reports include Scottish specific financial and performance information?
The Committee has agreed to seek views on the audit and accountability arrangement on the draft clauses in the following key areas:
Bodies reporting to the Scottish Parliament
The Command paper proposes that the following bodies should now lay their annual reports and accounts before the Scottish Parliament, submit reports and appear before Committees:
- the Northern Lighthouse Board and
- the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
Transfer of powers - UK organisations
Also proposed is the devolution of responsibility for the functions in Scotland that are currently delivered by the following organisations on a UK-wide basis:
- the Crown Estate;
- British Transport Police;
- Citizens Advice Scotland (Consumer advocacy and advice);
- Electoral Commission;
- Boundary Commission, and
- all powers over the management and operation of all reserved tribunals other than the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and the Proscribed Organisation Appeals Commission.
Department of Work and Pensions
The Command paper proposes that there should be joint oversight of the work of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in relation to DWP development and delivery of Universal credit (similar to that established with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in relation to the Scottish rate of income tax). The devolution of certain benefits is also proposed, with the option for the Scottish Parliament to agree that DWP continue to deliver those benefits or to establish separate Scottish delivery arrangements. Also proposed is that additional administrative and programme costs directly associated with the exercise of some of the powers should be met by the Scottish Government.
Views are also being sought on the audit arrangements arising from the draft clauses including the role of the National Audit Office and Audit Scotland, and where any agreed audit arrangements should be set out.