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13 May 2010
Committee system faces heightened scrutiny

Committee system faces heightened scrutiny

A major split on police reform has triggered concerns over the impartiality of the Holyrood committee system.

The Public Audit Committee released a report this morning calling for “clarification” from the Scottish Police Authority on the long-term savings picture underpinning last year’s move to a single service.

However, the report only received backing from five of nine on the committee - all of which were SNP – as opposition MSPs suggested the group had sought to put a “flattering interpretation” on the actions of government.

Labour MSPs Hugh Henry and Ken Macintosh as well as Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon and the Liberal Democrat’s Tavish Scott agreed an alternative report containing more critical conclusions.

The four warn that the absence of agreed longer term financial and corporate strategies creates a “risk” that savings delivered until now are short term and not sustainable.

The Scottish Government is also criticised for assurances given to another parliamentary committee that a full business case, which has not been produced, was being prepared.

In a joint statement issued this morning, the four MSPs said: “For the Scottish Parliament to operate effectively, it requires its committees to be rigorous in holding the Scottish Government to account. It is not the job of a committee of the Scottish Parliament to seek to put a flattering interpretation on the actions of the Scottish Government.

“For committees to be effective and credible, they need to report what they find, irrespective of any embarrassment to any one political party.

“This is particularly true for the Public Audit Committee which has had a longstanding reputation for defending the public interest. The Public Audit Committee has responsibility to scrutinise the use of public funds to ensure that best value is delivered and a lack of objectivity hinders this.

“It is also important that reports from the Public Audit Committee do not seek to diminish, understate, or misinterpret the work of Audit Scotland. Audit Scotland’s contribution to ensuring the most effective use of public expenditure has been well recognised.

“The Scottish public needs a strong and vigorous committee system in the Scottish Parliament. It is unfortunate, in our opinion, that on this occasion, the Public Audit Committee has not lived up to expectations.”

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