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Forthcoming publications

Forthcoming publications

Audit Scotland undertakes a number of audits for the Auditor General for Scotland and the Accounts Commission as part of a wider public audit model. This includes the annual audits of over 200 public bodies, some of which are carried out by private firms; reports on significant issues of public interest; performance audits; audits of best value in local government and of Community Planning Partnerships; overview reports on specific sectors; and reports on the National Fraud Initiative.

Reports already published within 2014/15 can be found in the All reports section. Further information on our forthcoming performance and best value audits is set out below or can be obtained from the business manager for this work, Rikki Young, at ryoung@audit-scotland.gov.uk.

Borrowing and treasury management in local government

Due for release: February 2015 for the Accounts Commission

Summary: Councils usually borrow money to help finance capital expenditure. In certain circumstances, they may borrow money in advance of need and invest those sums, although they are not allowed to borrow specifically for the purpose of investment. In recent years, restrictions on capital budgets have meant that councils have increasingly sought to use borrowing to finance capital expenditure, and their combined annual net borrowing has increased from £500 million in 2004/05 (27 per cent of capital expenditure) to £1.3 billion in 2011/12 (54 per cent of capital expenditure). At March 2012, councils had total borrowings of £10.5 billion.

The CIPFA Prudential Code provides a framework for councils within which each council is free to set its own borrowing limits.

This audit will examine the role played by borrowing and treasury management in councils’ overall financial strategies.

Broadband infrastructure

Due for release: February 2015 for the Auditor General

Summary: Achieving significantly improved broadband coverage and speed is a major component of the Scottish Government’s digital strategy. The overarching aims of broadband investment are improved digital inclusion and to provide a solid basis for businesses development – both significant priorities for the Scottish Government. During 2013, two significant contracts were awarded (to BT) to provide infrastructure – the combined value of these contracts is £410 million (public sector investment of £295 million). The aim is to deliver an infrastructure that will deliver speeds of 40 80 Mbps for between 85 and 90 per cent of premises by 2015.

Carrying out the audit in 2014/15 will allow us to assess progress to date, but retain scope to propose potential improvements. Discussions with the Scottish Government suggest that the programme may already be running behind schedule, although the targets may still be met if progress leverages further private sector investment/activity. We may be able to identify what further actions are required to deliver the expected benefits.

Although the contracts are being led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (for the Highlands) and the Scottish Government (the rest of the country), individual councils have also contributed, and retain a strong interest. There is scope, therefore, to examine how the managing bodies are working with councils.

Developing financial reporting: a progress report

Due for release: February 2015 for the Auditor General

Summary: In 2013, the Auditor General reported there is no published picture of the devolved public sector’s finances as a whole. With the Scotland Act 2012 and the possibility of further financial powers for the Scottish Parliament the case for comprehensive, transparent and reliable financial reporting has never been stronger.

Our audit will assess what progress the Scottish Government has made in developing its financial reporting since our 2013 report. It will assess the information currently available and consider the reporting arrangements the Scottish Government is putting in place for its new financial powers.

Prestwick Airport

Due for release: February 2015 for the Auditor General

Summary: The Scottish Government purchased Prestwick Aviation Holdings Ltd (the company which owned Prestwick Airport) for £1 in November 2013 to prevent the airport’s closure and to protect the 3,200 jobs associated with it. The Scottish Government has so far committed to provide £25.2 million in loan funding to Prestwick Airport to the end of March 2016 and further public sector financial support is likely to be required.

The audit will consider the reasonableness of the Scottish Government’s approach to the purchase of Prestwick Airport, the future plans for its development and the arrangements for monitoring its future performance. An important part of the audit will be to identify lessons to help inform any similar investment decisions in the future.

Commonwealth Games 2014: final report

Due for release: March 2015 for the Auditor General / Accounts Commission

Summary: The current budget for the Commonwealth Games is £563 million, with £462 million of this funded by the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council. This is a significant amount of public funding and a major event for Scotland.

The final cost of the Games will not be known until November/December 2014 so we will not be able to report until spring 2015 at the earliest.

Efficiency of sheriff courts

Due for release: March 2015 for the Auditor General

Summary: Our report Overview of Scotland’s justice system (September 2011) found significant inefficiencies in how criminal summary cases progressed through the court system. Cases were often resolved later than necessary, costing significant amounts of public money. We estimated that court ‘churn’ (when a case has to repeat a stage at court) cost around £10 million in 2009/10 and late decisions by the procurators fiscal not to proceed with a case cost around £30 million.

The Scottish Government established a four-year Making Justice Work programme due to be completed by the end of 2014 to improve efficiency in the criminal justice system. More recently, the Scottish Court Service has embarked on a programme of court closures to meet financial pressures.

Local government overview 2015

Due for release: March 2015 for the Accounts Commission

Summary: Scotland's 32 councils provide public services to the people of Scotland, including education, social care, waste management, cultural services and planning. They spend around £21 billion a year on these services, employing over 200,000 staff and using buildings and other assets worth around £38 billion.

Each year, the Accounts Commission, with support from Audit Scotland, produces a local government overview report to identify the main issues arising from the local government audit work. The reports provide a high-level, independent view of the governance, strategic management and financial performance of local government in Scotland. The 2015 report will continue to do this, based on audit work we have done in 2014.

Scotland’s colleges

Due for release: April 2015 for the Auditor General

Summary: Colleges are the main providers of further education in Scotland and play an important role in helping to achieve sustainable economic growth. There has been significant restructuring in the college sector over the past two years which has led to the creation of 13 college regions. The sector continues to undergo significant reform, including the ongoing integration of merged colleges, development of regional boards, reclassification of colleges as public sector bodies and changes to the way in which colleges are funded. These reforms, and the constraints on public sector funding, mean that colleges continue to face challenges.

Audit Scotland has published a number of reports about Scotland’s colleges. This audit will provide an update on the overall financial position of the college sector and the progress colleges are making towards structural reform. The audit will also examine the key issues affecting Scotland’s colleges over the next few years.

East Dunbartonshire Council statutory follow-up

Due for release: Spring 2015 for the Accounts Commission

Summary: In May 2013, the Accounts Commission published the Assurance and Improvement Plan 2013-16 (AIP) for East Dunbartonshire Council. The AIP is based on a shared risk assessment undertaken by a local area network (LAN), comprising representatives of all relevant scrutiny bodies. The LAN concluded that scrutiny was required in the areas of people management, asset management, procurement and performance management. As a result, targeted best value audit work was carried out in East Dunbartonshire Council during 2013. The findings of this work were reported through the council’s annual audit report for 2012/13.

In December 2013, the Controller of Audit reported the findings of the audit work to the Accounts Commission. This report highlighted a number of important issues across the areas examined that required further development. The Accounts Commission agreed with the Controller of Audit’s proposal that further work be carried out during 2014/15.

This audit will assess whether the council’s progress in the areas previously examined. It will also examine areas of scrutiny and/or requiring further information that the LAN has more recently identified in the 2014-17 AIP. This includes; governance and accountability, leadership and direction in improving and transforming public services and financial management and efficiency.

Falkirk Council Best Value Audit Work 2014

Due for release: Spring 2015 for the Accounts Commission

Summary: In May 2014, the Accounts Commission published the Assurance and Improvement Plan 2014-17 (AIP) for Falkirk Council. The Assurance and Improvement Plan is based on a shared risk assessment undertaken by a local area network (LAN), a group of representatives of all the scrutiny bodies who engage with the council. In the shared risk assessment for 2014-17, the LAN concluded that scrutiny was required in the areas of Governance and accountability and Improving and transforming public services.

This audit will assess whether the council’s decision-making structures, scrutiny arrangements and performance management arrangements are supporting it in improving services and delivering better outcomes for local people. The Accounts Commission has confirmed the importance of councils meeting their statutory duty of Best Value, working to high standards of governance and continually improving services. This is particularly important as public sector budgets continue to tighten, as is the need to make sure that public money is used most appropriately and is delivering maximum benefit.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

Due for release: May 2015 for the Auditor General

Summary: The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 created a new national fire service in Scotland. The budget for the new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) is £277 million for 2013/14 (including savings of £22 million). It employs 9,000 staff (about 4,000 full-time firefighters). The SFRS is expected to deliver further savings of £18 million over the next two years.

HM Fire Service Inspectorate published an overview of how the new service is performing operationally in November 2013. This has provided assurance that frontline services have been maintained during the transition to the new service but that delivering the savings will be a challenge.

Our audit work will build on previous audit and inspection work.

Moray Council statutory follow-up

Due for release: June 2015 for the Accounts Commission

Summary: To follow

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