Audit Scotland looks at a whole range of issues involving the use of public money across Scotland. While it’s still quite unusual for us to start an audit when a project is in the early stages of development, it can be very useful to get involved at this point. Given the benefits, this is something we want to do more of in the future.
One of the most interesting ‘live’ audits we’ve done was on the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Given the amount of public money involved (over £420 million), the high level of public interest, and the potential impact on Scotland’s international reputation, it was important for Audit Scotland to comment early on planning for the Games. Coming into play at this stage meant we could highlight any risks to the Games being delivered on time and within budget, and make recommendations to help address those risks.
This led to our first audit report on the Games in November 2009, almost 5 years before the competition actually took place. Organisers took on board our recommendations, and the changes they made would arguably not have been possible if we hadn’t begun our audit at the very beginning of the planning process. Since then, we’ve published another two reports, in 2012 and 2015.
Many of the audit team bought tickets for events during the Games. I was lucky enough to sit in the front row at Hampden Park on the final night of the athletics and the atmosphere was fantastic – though it was one of the wettest days of the 11-day competition! After the Games were over it was time for myself and colleagues to look at whether they were delivered within budget and achieved their objectives.
Our third report, published in March 2015, concluded that the Games were successful, well-managed and delivered within budget. We also focused heavily on the longer-term impact of the competition. The Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council have rightly stressed all along that there must be a lasting legacy for the people of Glasgow and Scotland. This is notoriously difficult to achieve and measure for large sporting events, but was a key objective of the bid to host the Games.
Our report captured this by commenting on the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council’s plans for ensuring a lasting legacy. Though we were able to report on what had happened already, such as improvements in facilities in Glasgow and job opportunities that could be attributed to the Games, it will take time to realise any long-term benefits for communities living in the East End of Glasgow, and elsewhere in Scotland.
We have a very clear interest in what difference the significant amount of public money invested in the Games has made to the people of Scotland, particularly at a time of pressures on public sector funding. This is therefore an area we’ll continue to monitor in the future.
About the author
Tricia Meldrum, senior manager, has worked at Audit Scotland since 2001 and was involved in all three audits of the Commonwealth Games.