Accounts Commission annual report 2018/19

Chair's foreword

Graham Sharp

Increasing pressures on public services continue to make effective and constructive scrutiny as important as it has ever been.

Graham Sharp
Chair of the Accounts Commission

Read more from the Chair...

Our 2018/19 annual report gives an overview of our work and reports over the last year. It covers our high-profile overview reports looking at issues across local government as a whole, our national work looking at significant topics of public interest, and our work in individual councils.

Our Best Value audit work in councils continues apace. I am pleased that overall those councils we reported on this year have made good progress. Our auditors have also noted much improvement across the six councils we reported on last year.

The Commission greatly appreciates the contribution of Audit Scotland, and of all our auditors, which is critical to the effectiveness of our work. We also value the constructive dialogue we have with councils and all our stakeholders. Nearly all councils participated in the six engagement events we held this year across Scotland. These were valuable to the Commission and feedback highlights that councils found these equally productive.

There has been much change in the Commission, in what is now my second year as chair. We welcome four new members, Andrew Burns, Andrew Cowie, Christine Lester and Sharon O’Connor, who bring a wealth of public sector experience. I also wish to thank, on behalf of myself and the Commission, Alan Campbell, Sandy Cumming and Christine May, for their valuable contribution, insight and commitment during their appointments which ended this year.

Increasing pressures on public services continue to make effective and constructive scrutiny as important as it has ever been. Changes in how local services are provided in areas such as health and social care also present challenges for how we take our scrutiny work forward. Our aim is to deliver reports that are relevant, objective, add value and are trusted by the public and our other stakeholders. I look forward to continuing to develop our future audit programme in consultation with our stakeholders and partners.

Increasing the profile of scrutiny

A key priority for us is to help local communities scrutinise their own councils. We communicate our messages in different ways to reach our audiences.

Our national audit reports and reports on individual councils attract much public and media interest. Increasingly we use different formats to summarise our key messages.

Engagement strategy

Our Engagement strategy gives more information about how we promote our messages.

Statutory performance information direction

Councils are required to report their performance in public. We published our three-yearly Statutory Performance Information Direction, setting out how they should do this.

Our national work

National Fraud Initiative in Scotland 2016/17

Audit Scotland coordinates this initiative every two years, involving nearly 100 public bodies in Scotland. It identified £18.6 million of potential fraud of errors since the last report in 2016.

2018 annual update on Housing Benefit Performance audit

Our 2018 annual update examined the housing benefit performance of five councils. It found weaknesses in business planning and performance reporting, and risks in the capacity to improve at a time of major change.

Impact reports

We published three impact reports looking at how councils and other bodies have responded to our recommendation. Impact reports are undertaken around 18 months after a performance audit is published.

Health and social care integration: update on progress

Our second report on health and social care integration found that Integration Authorities face significant challenges through rising service demand and mounting financial pressures on councils and the NHS.

Find out some of the key facts from our update report.

Find out about the changes in health and social care integration.

Reporting on individual councils

We published seven Best Value reports looking at how councils plan and deliver local services, how well they use public money, and how they improve as organisations.

Best Value

The Commission has powers to publish statutory reports to bring serious issues of wider concern to public attention. In April 2018, we published a report on Edinburgh schools, in which the Commission considered the circumstances of a wall collapse at Oxgangs Primary School in Edinburgh in January 2016.

Ensuring quality in our work

Audit Quality

In assuring the public about the performance of councils, we need to ensure that our work is of high quality, independent and based on sound evidence. Our independent quality assurance team monitors the quality of all auditors' work and audit work is subject to internal and external independent review.

Working with others

National Scrutiny Plan

We are looking at new ways to involve the public, communities and our local government stakeholders in what we do. Last year, we hosted events with councils across Scotland to hear about the pressures facing them, and consulted over our future audit programme.

The Commission works with other scrutiny bodies to publish our annual National Scrutiny Plan for Local Government.

Action Plan 2018/19

Accounts Commission reports

In our 2018/19 action plan, we committed to a number of activities we would do during the year involving the work we would carry out and how we would do it..

 Read about the progress we made on the action plan - PDF 1.4Mb

Strategy 2019-24

Accounts Commission members

Our strategy outlines our audit priorities for the next five years and our action plan for the work we'll be carrying out over the next year.

 Read our Strategy and annual action plan 2019-24 - PDF 259Kb