Public audit plays a key role in providing assurance that public money is well managed and in providing independent and objective evidence on the performance of public bodies. That assurance is important for the public and decision-makers and will become even more important as Scotland assumes greater fiscal autonomy within the UK. We want the public interest, trust and confidence to be at the heart of Audit Scotland’s work.
In her blog to mark Global Ethics Day, Fiona Kordiak, Director of Audit Services, writes about why it's important for us to apply the highest ethical standards in our audit work, and why ethics should guide the daily work of everyone in the public sector.
How public audit in Scotland works
Public audit in Scotland is informed by the priorities of the Auditor General and the Accounts Commission. Our document Public audit in Scotland sets out the shape, principles and themes of public audit. And our Corporate plan sets out how public audit is delivered.
Scottish public-sector bodies do not appoint their own auditors. The Auditor General appoints auditors to all Scottish Government, NHS, further education and other central government bodies. The Accounts Commission appoints auditors to all councils and local government bodies.
Who we are
Audit Scotland audits bodies across the public sector:
Scottish Government, NHS and further education are audited through the Auditor General who reports findings to the Scottish Parliament
Local government is audited through the Controller of Audit, who reports to the Accounts Commission
Both the Parliament and the Accounts Commission are accountable to the public
The independent appointment of auditors is a strength of public audit and is an important safeguard that helps to ensure that the auditor is free from any potential or perceived conflict of interest or other pressure which may compromise their judgement. More information can be found on our audit appointments web page.
Ensuring quality in our work
Audit quality is the cornerstone of Audit Scotland’s work. All of our work needs to be of the highest standard, meeting international audit standards as well as the requirements of the Auditor General and the Accounts Commission, as set out in the Code of Audit Practice 2021.
We introduced enhanced quality arrangements in 2017/18 to support independent scrutiny, assurance and provide professional support for the in-house teams and the appointed firms.
We have two teams to support these arrangements: Audit Quality and Appointments, and Professional Support.
Audit Quality and Appointments team
This team is independent of staff working on audits. They produced and maintain the Audit Quality Framework, which applies to all audit work and providers, and report on audit quality to the Auditor General, Accounts Commission and the public.
Audit Quality Framework
The framework combines the highest professional and ethical standards with strong and comprehensive arrangements for:
- internal quality reviews
- reporting on quality to the Audit Committee, the Auditor General, the Accounts Commission and to the public
- external quality reviews commissioned from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS). They carry out independent reviews covering all aspects of our audit work and providers, including financial audit, best value audit and performance audit.
Quality of public audit in Scotland annual report
The results of the work under the Audit Quality Framework are published in June each year. The most recent report concluded that the quality of audit work on audits is high and improving. Auditors are engaging with the Audit Quality Framework and addressing previous years’ findings, leading to improvements in audit quality.
Working closely with Audit Quality and Appointments, the Professional Support team provides guidance, advice and support to auditors. We follow applicable standards from the international standards of auditing (ISAs), and from the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI). We comply with the Code and related guidance and adopt cutting-edge methodologies and best practice to deliver high-quality audits. We also promote efficiency and effectiveness and support continuous improvement.
We also improve audit quality by ensuring that auditors’ technical judgements are made on an informed basis. More information can be found on our technical guidance for auditors and bodies web page.