Scottish Police Authority ‘paid for DCC tax bill’

Written by Tom Freeman on 8 December 2017 in News

Audit Scotland reports "unacceptable" spending levels of public money at the Scottish Police Authority

Former Scottish Police Authority chiefs Andrew Flanagan and John Foley - Scottish Parliament/Andrew Cowan

The body in charge of holding Police Scotland to account has spent “unacceptable” levels of taxpayers’ money, Scotland’s spending watchdog has said.

Auditor General Caroline Gardner has reported “governance failings and the poor use of public money” at the Scottish Police Authority, including paying an unnamed Police Scotland deputy chief constable £53,000 towards their tax bill.

A further £67,000 was paid to the DCC to move house, a figure which was not properly disclosed on the accounts.

Gardner’s report is also critical of the appointment of three temporary senior staff at a cost of over £344,000.

Former Labour minister Susan Deacon was recently appointed the new chair of the SPA after previous chair Andrew Flanagan stepped down over criticism of his governance.

The body’s chief executive John Foley also took early retirement.

Audit Scotland’s report predicts the SPA will eventually achieve financial balance in 2020/21 but “may then move back into a position of annual deficits due to unaddressed recurring cost pressures”.

Gardner said: “Our audit identified a number of instances of poor governance and poor use of public money. This is unacceptable.

“An immediate priority for the new chair and interim chief officer must be ensuring that the organisation operates more effectively and transparently so that such occurrences are not repeated in the future.”

She added: “While the progress in financial management of the SPA and Police Scotland is welcome, detailed strategies are needed to ensure the two organisations are able to achieve long-term financial sustainability and realise the vision outlined in Policing 2026.”

Speaking to the BBC, Deacon said she would address the concerns in her new role.

“I share the auditors' concerns and I will work with the SPA board and the new chief officer to ensure we learn the lessons from that and that further improvements in decision-making, transparency and process are made in the future,” she said.

Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur, who this week tabled a parliamentary motion of no confidence in the police governing bodies, criticised “closed shop” appointments and a lack of transparency by the SPA.

“This investigation has exposed recruitment and tendering processes that were clearly flawed and unfair,” he said.

"Audit Scotland was right to take an interest and its findings are damning.”

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said: “One of the driving forces behind setting up a single force was to improve transparency and accountability. Instead, things seem murkier than ever.”

Scottish Labour’s justice spokesperson Claire Baker said Deacon has a “huge job ahead”.

“She needs to Government to step up and take their part of the responsibility for the failings that went before.”

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