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Our work programme

Our work programme for 2014/15

Audit Scotland will undertake a total of nine performance audits for the Auditor General for Scotland and the Accounts Commission during 2014/15, and this programme is part of a wider public audit model which includes the annual audits of over 180 public bodies; reports on significant issues of public interest; audits of best value in local government and of community planning partnerships; overview reports on specific sectors; and the national fraud initiative.

Managing procurement in councils

Due for release: April 2014 for the Accounts Commission

Summary:

Procurement is the process that councils follow to purchase the goods and services they need to provide public services.
This audit will assess how well councils in Scotland manage procurement and will seek to answer the following questions:

• How much do councils spend on goods and services and what savings have councils identified through better procurement?

• Do councils manage procurement well and have good governance for it in line with good practice?

• How well is Scotland Excel helping councils to improve procurement and achieve savings in spending on goods and services?

Effective procurement is essential for councils to promote value for money and helps them achieve their local outcomes and priorities. In 2011/12, councils spent £5.8 billion buying a wide range of goods and services, half of the total for the Scottish public sector.

Scotland Excel is a shared service which is the centre of procurement expertise for Scottish councils. It develops and manages collaborative contracts and works with member councils and suppliers to raise standards.


Accident and emergency: audit update

Due for release: May 2014 for the Auditor General

Summary:

Audit Scotland published Emergency departments in 2010. This audit focussed on A&E departments but also analysed data from NHS 24 and the Scottish Ambulance Service. At that time, we reported that NHS boards had made improvements in tackling longer A&E waiting times. However, performance has since deteriorated and the NHS in Scotland as a whole has consistently failed to achieve the standard of treatment within four hours.

There is significant variation in performance across NHS boards, and only the island boards and NHS Tayside have consistently achieved the target. Failure to meet the 4-hour standard is a high profile issue and of concern to the public and Parliament. The importance of A&E is reflected in the NHS Quality Strategy, the Route map to the 2020 vision for health and social care, and the general aim to reduce emergency admissions to hospital.

We highlighted in our previous audit that A&E is the 'front door' of the NHS in Scotland and longer waiting times are a sign that whole system is under strain. We made a number of recommendations to NHS boards and the Scottish Government and feel there is value in producing an update on performance since our 2010 report.

Scotland’s public finances: report on local progress

Due for release: June 2014 for the Auditor General / Accounts Commission

Summary:

We published Scotland’s public finances: addressing the challenges in August 2011. The report highlighted the spending constraints that the Scottish public sector is likely to face over the next few years and emphasised the importance of public bodies meeting cost pressures and achieving long-term financial sustainability.

This report, or series of reports, will examine how well public bodies are managing their finances in the context of reduced budgets.

Self-directed support

Due for release: June 2014 for the Auditor General / Accounts Commission

Summary:

Self-directed support (SDS) is a way of giving people choice and control over their social care and support. It requires a major change in the way that councils and support providers have previously worked. The Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013 places a duty on councils to offer SDS to eligible people from April 2014. The Act is part of the national Self-directed Support Strategy (2010).

This audit aims to assess whether councils are making sufficient progress in implementing self-directed support (SDS). We will try to answer the questions:

• Do councils have clear plans in place to offer SDS to everyone who is assessed as needing social care from April 2014?

• Do councils have good financial management and governance arrangements in place for SDS?

• To what extent are councils ensuring that SDS has a positive impact on people who need social care?

• Is the Scottish Government providing effective practical and financial support to ensure successful implementation of SDS?


School education performance audit

Due for release: June 2014 for the Accounts Commission

Summary:

This audit will assess how efficiently and effectively councils are using their resources to maximise pupil achievement in schools. Specifically, the audit will examine:

• How is school education in Scotland organised and delivered?

• How much do councils spend on school education and what do they spend it on?

• How effective are councils at driving forward improvements in pupil achievement?

• How efficient are councils at using their resources to maximise pupil achievement?


Argyll and Bute Council Statutory follow-up 2014

Due for release: July 2014 for the Accounts Commission

Summary:

In October 2013, the Controller of Audit presented a statutory report to the Accounts Commission on leadership and culture at Argyll and Bute Council (specifically the effectiveness of councillor to councillor and councillor to officer working relationships).

The Commission made findings on the report and expressed the need for urgent progress. The Commission asked the Controller of Audit to provide a further report on the progress made to improve over the following six months.

The 2014 follow-up audit responds to the Commission's request for a report on progress. The audit work will take place in April/May 2014 with the aim of reporting to the Accounts Commission in June 2014 and publication early in July 2014.

Scotland’s colleges overview

Due for release: October 2014 for the Auditor General

Summary: To follow

NHS financial performance 2013/14

Due for release: October 2014 for the Auditor General

Summary: To follow

Borrowing and treasury management in local government

Due for release: November 2014 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: January 2015 for the Auditor General or the Auditor General / Accounts Commission tbc

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.

Fire reform

Due for release: January 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 in the next two years (£12 million in 2014/15 and £7 million in 2015/16).

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.

This performance audit will comment on the progress in implementing relevant recommendations from HMFSI and other audit work.

Commonwealth Games 2014: final report

Due for release: February 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.

Overview of local government 2015

Due for release: February 2015 for the Accounts Commission

Summary: To follow

Court efficiency

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.

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