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Audit Committee

6th Report, 2004 (Session 2)

Annual Report of the Audit Committee for the Parliamentary Year
7 May 2003 to 6 May 2004

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SP Paper 128

Session 2 (2004)

 

Remit and membership (7 May 2003 – 6 May 2004)

Remit:

1. The remit of the Audit Committee is to consider and report on-

(a) any accounts laid before the Parliament;

(b) any report laid before or made to the Parliament by the Auditor General for Scotland; and

(c) any other document laid before the Parliament concerning financial control, accounting and auditing in relation to public expenditure.

2. No member of the Scottish Executive or junior Scottish Minister may be a member of the Committee and no member who represents a political party which is represented in the Scottish Executive may be convener of the Committee.

(Standing Orders of the Scottish Parliament, Rule 6.7)

Membership:

Mr Brian Monteith (Convener)
Rhona Brankin
Susan Deacon
Robin Harper
Margaret Jamieson
George Lyon
Mr Kenny MacAskill (Deputy Convener)

Committee Clerking Team:

Clerk to the Committee
Shelagh McKinlay

Senior Assistant Clerk
Joanna Hardy

Assistant Clerk
Christine Lambourne

 

The Committee reports to the Parliament as follows—

Introduction

1. The Audit Committee holds to account those who are charged with spending taxpayers’ money and ensures that public funds are spent effectively. In practice it does this by holding inquiries into the issues raised in reports by the Auditor General for Scotland. The past year has arguably been the Committee’s busiest to date. In particular, the Committee has taken evidence on more reports of the Auditor General than ever before. Details of the Committee’s inquiries are set out below together with other highlights of the Committee’s year.

Inquiries and Reports

Auditor General Reports

2. This is the first Annual Report of the Session 2 Audit Committee. The Committee met for the first time in June 2003 and in its early meetings quickly established a programme of evidence taking to begin following the Summer recess. From September onwards, the Committee held nine evidence taking sessions on seven Auditor General for Scotland reports and received five briefings from the Auditor General on other reports.

Inquiries Concluded

3. Early in the year the Committee agreed to undertake an inquiry into Individual Learning Accounts in Scotland and in January 2004 it published its report. The Committee’s report made a range of recommendations on issues such as project planning, the management of risk, quality assurance and the need for better guidance and information.

4. Also in January 2004, the Committee published a report on its inquiry into Supporting Prescibing in General Practice. This inquiry found that NHSScotland had failed to capitilise on a number of successful pilot projects, which reduced waste and improved the quality of service to patients. The report recommended that the

Executive set out a clear structure for agreeing and adopting successful practices, as a matter of urgency.

5. In March 2004, the Committee published a report on the Scottish Further Education Funding Council, following its inquiry into the performance management of the further education sector in Scotland. This inquiry found that the Scottish Further Education Funding Council was making slow progress in delivering a range of key initiatives. The report concluded that the Council needed to act more purposefully on commitments made following earlier Auditor General for Scotland examinations and Committee reports.

Ongoing Inquiries

6. At the time of writing, the Committee has three ongoing inquiries. In January 2004, the Committee took evidence from Scottish Enterprise on a special audit examination by the Auditor General for Scotland. The Committee will publish its report on this matter in the Spring.

7. In March 2004, the Committee took evidence from the Scottish Parliament’s Chief Executive in relation to the Section 22 report by the Auditor General for Scotland on the accounts of the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body 2003 2004.

8. The Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into the report by the Auditor General for Scotland entitled ‘Overview of the National Health Service in Scotland‘. The Committee has taken evidence from three NHS Boards in order to gain a greater understanding of the performance and financial issues facing the NHS bodies at local level.

Mainstreaming Equalities

9. The Convener has written to the Auditor General for Scotland asking him to identify how equalities issues are addressed in his examinations. This will help the Committee to ensure that equalities issues are given adequate and appropriate attention in its own inquiries.

Innovation

Accounts Commission

10. In recognition of the increasing number of reports published jointly by the Auditor General for Scotland and the Accounts Commission, the Committee has agreed to periodically take evidence from the Accounts Commission, in order to help the Committee place its consideration of individual joint reports within the context of national developments in relation to performance management in local authorities. The first of these evidence sessions was held on 27 April 2004.

Visit to Wales

11. In March 2004, members visited the National Assembly for Wales in order to explore issues of mutual interest and to build on relationships established by the Session 1 Committee. The Committee has also agreed to undertake similar visits to Westminster and Northern Ireland in the near future.

Bills and Petitions

12. The Committee did not consider any bills or public petitions during the parliamentary year.

Subordinate Legislation

13. During the reporting year the Committee considered one Scottish Statutory Instrument, which was subject to negative procedure.

Meetings

14. The Committee met 19 times between 7 May 2003 and 6 May 2004. Of these meetings, one was entirely in public, 15 were partly in private and three were entirely in private. The majority of Committee time was spent in public session. Where the Committee decided to meet in private, decisions were taken on a case by case basis. The majority of private items were to consider the approach to reports by the Auditor General for Scotland and arrangements for inquiries. Other private items were to consider lines of questioning for witnesses, evidence taken and draft reports.

15. All the meetings were held in Edinburgh.

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