Business Support – be at the heart of Audit Scotland

Officed picAs Audit Scotland seeks a new Business Support Manager we asked Lynn Scott, who has been in the role for the last five years, to give us a bit more insight into life at Audit Scotland.

In the five years I’ve been doing this job, no two days have ever been the same. What’s great about the job is the incredible diversity. It’s based within the Corporate Service Management team but working with all business groups in Audit Scotland. It’s definitely a great way to get to know colleagues from across the organisation and get involved in their work. Continue reading Business Support – be at the heart of Audit Scotland

The road not taken – yet

Caroline_twitter_400pxAuditor General Caroline Gardner on Scotland’s new financial powers and the opportunities and pitfalls that lie ahead.

The Scottish Budget Bill passed its Stage 1 hurdle last week, with support from the Greens and two Lib Dem MSPs. There’s been lots of coverage of the deal that’s been reached – extra cash for councils, low-carbon capital investment and lower-paid public sector workers, plus backing for ferry services in the northern isles – amounting to £170 million. There’s no doubt that it’s an important milestone for the Government, but in some ways the debate has missed the bigger questions. Continue reading The road not taken – yet

Community engagement – auditing impact

Claire Sweeney picBy Claire Sweeney, Associate Director at Audit Scotland

Over the last few months we’ve been learning more about community engagement.  It’s a fascinating issue that’s never been more important in Scotland and it’s an increasingly important part of our audit work.  But to audit community engagement fully we need to both understand it and develop ways of assessing where it’s working well. That’s easier said than done.  Lorraine Gillies, who is with us on secondment from West Lothian Council, has been helping us with this. Continue reading Community engagement – auditing impact

The £40 billion career

Debi finalBy Debi Chisholm, HR Consultant at Audit Scotland

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be on the road at graduate recruitment fairs around the country.

It’s a part of my job that I really love. Along with some of our current trainees, I get to meet graduates from different backgrounds, talking about our work, trainee scheme and future career opportunities. Continue reading The £40 billion career

‘Validating the feels’

Lorraine GilliesBy Lorraine Gillies, Senior Manager, Audit Scotland

It can be a challenge to convince some funders, academics, policy makers, health bodies, inspectors, auditors and assessors that the creative and relational are just as important as quantitative measures in health, wellbeing and social justice. Where is the evidence that although all the processes are in place and the boxes are ticked that someone still feels that they aren’t getting the help they need, for example? Continue reading ‘Validating the feels’

Listening to you….

We recently published our follow up report on self-directed support (SDS). SDS is a major change in the way social work services are delivered, aiming to give people more choice and control over their social care support. The report looks at what progress has been made in implementing SDS and what the impact has been on people with support needs, families and carers.

As part of this work we gathered views from those who have had direct experience of self-directed support. We wanted to say a huge thank you for taking the time to tell us your experiences, be that as a user or family member or carer of someone needing support. This may have been through our survey, one of our focus groups or speaking to the team in person. Your stories have been invaluable in helping us to understand how self-directed support is really working.

Everyone’s views fed directly in our report  and gave us a rich understanding of how SDS works for people across Scotland, from the process to the impacts on their lives. We heard about how it is working well for some people and the reasons for this and similarly where people have not had their desired outcomes or the type of support they want. All this information has helped us come to our conclusions and produce recommendations for what needs to improve in future.

In addition to the publication, we have produced a series of supplements including an overview of responses to our user survey. This gives you a flavour of what people across Scotland have said about their experiences.

Thanks again for sharing your stories. It really is important for our work as the public spending watchdog to understand how SDS is working for you.


About the author


Zoe McGuire is an Audit Scotland auditor who worked on the survey and the report.

Calling all school leavers – unique opportunity to work, learn, study and get paid

If you’re a recent school leaver you’re likely to be facing some big decisions. You’ve got your exam results, but now you’ll be figuring out what to do next. Perhaps you want to continue in education. Or maybe you’re keen to jump straight into work, train on the job and start earning.

This year, for the first time, we’re running a school leavers scheme. It’s a unique opportunity to contribute to our work, study towards an internationally recognised accountancy qualification and get paid.

We’re looking for two school leavers to join us, in our Edinburgh office, from October.

We’ve joined forces with the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA). Two trainees will be employed by CIPFA on a one-year contract and will join us four days a week to support our audit work. The remainder of your time will be spent completing the Association of Accounting Technicians level four qualifications.

At the end of the contract you’ll have the chance to join our four-year graduate scheme, and advance your skills by completing the ICAS chartered accounting qualification.

First off, let me explain what Audit Scotland actually does, and the sort of work you could get involved in.

We all use public services like schools, colleges, hospitals, emergency services and local council services every day. These are financed by around £40 billion of public money. Because we’re independent of the organisations we audit, Audit Scotland is in a unique position to help ensure public bodies in Scotland deliver value for money services. We report on over 220 public organisations, from the NHS and Police Scotland to every local council. It’s about helping them make the best use of our money, and in turn making sure we all receive the best possible public services.

And, as you’ll discover, it’s not just about the finances. We’re here to support public bodies in other ways as well.

The day-to-day role of an auditor isn’t all about numbers; it’s a really varied role. One day you’ll be travelling to different parts of Scotland undertaking interviews, finding where and how a particular organisation has been spending public money and the next you could be analysing this information, getting ready to report your team’s findings in public. It’s a really exciting and vital role where you can help make a real difference, and no two days are the same.

Find out more about life at Audit Scotland in our animation.

Join us!

If you’re ambitious, have a passion for helping improve public services in Scotland, and have a Higher Grade of B+ in English and Maths, then why not consider applying? This is a unique opportunity. More information and how to apply can be found here. Applications close on Sunday 27 August so don’t leave it too late!

About the author

Morgan Kingston


Morgan Kingston is a Senior Auditor at Audit Scotland.

The Accounts Commission prepares for a new phase of leadership


The campaign to recruit a new Chair of the Accounts Commission is underway, marking the first milestone in an important phase for the Commission. The advert for the post has been published on the Scottish Government’s public appointments website.

It’s an increasingly high profile position and one that has a significant and central role in improving the delivery of our most critical day to day public services across Scotland.

The Chair will lead a body that has played a pivotal role in Scottish public life for over 40 years. The work of the Accounts Commission has evolved over the decades, increasing its profile, but its core purpose remains the same – holding local councils to account for their performance, and in doing so acting impartially and independently of councils and government.

The Commission has an intensive work programme. It reports to the public and engages with audited bodies and other stakeholders on matters arising from the audit of 32 Scottish councils, 33 associated council bodies and 30 joint health and social care integration boards. Read more in the Commission’s latest strategy and action plan.

This means the Chair is required to make a commitment of, in effect, at least half a working week, every week.

The role brings with it a number of a challenges and opportunities. Like all members of the Commission, the Chair should have a passion and vision for helping ensure Scotland’s public services are the best they can be. They need to be able to bring together 12 people, from very different backgrounds, with a range of experience and professional knowledge, and encourage them to make findings and judgements about public bodies.

Increasingly, the work of the Commission receives both local and national media coverage. Its reports are integral to debates and discussions in the Scottish Parliament and are expected to help inform debate in local communities.

The Chair is the most high profile member of the Commission – representing the watchdog in the Parliament, in the media and engaging directly with councillors and the public. The Commission believes that effectiveness lies in the impact of the messages articulated from its audit work to councils, government and particularly citizens. And it is for the Chair to ensure shape and context to these messages.

The environment in which the Accounts Commission works continues to change: we have a new political and leadership landscape in local government following May’s council elections. The Scottish Government’s agenda for change also continues, such as the recent announcements around further reform of education; an area that we will be dedicating work to in coming months. And the recent tragedy at Grenfell Tower in London has considerable implications for local government across the UK, in terms of planning and building regulation and safety and housing availability.

There has already been a recent period of substantial change for the Commission, with the first of the reports from the recently published new approach to auditing Best Value; publication of high-profile performance audits in a range of policy areas, and an updated strategy underlining its expectations for improvement in councils.

The Chair works closely with the Auditor General, Caroline Gardner, in taking forward public audit in Scotland, including providing direction for Audit Scotland. The Controller of Audit reports to the Commission on the accounts of local authorities and matters arising from these audits. Find out more about this on the Commission’s website.

The appointment of Chair is initially for four years, with the option of reappointment by the Minister for Local Government and Housing, Kevin Stewart MSP, for another four years.

A new Chair will be in place from 1 November, appointed by the Minister. Currently, the post is being fulfilled on an acting basis by Ronnie Hinds. The Commission recently chose Christine May to act as his Deputy in this interim period.

The Chair of the Commission is a high-profile influential role. The appointment of a new chair marks the beginning of a new and exciting era for the Commission, as we respond to ever more challenging times.

About the author

MM6A5388Paul Reilly is Secretary to the Accounts Commission



Audit Scotland goes global

globeBy Sarah Pollock

You might not know it, but people from all over the world are curious about public audit in Scotland.

Scotland’s financial devolution settlement is complex and ever-changing. Our health and social care services have gone through a sustained period of reform, and they continue to face demographic challenges. Community empowerment legislation is changing the way local decisions about services and public spending are made. Add in Brexit and talk of a potential further referendum on Scottish independence, and Scotland makes a fascinating case study for the people charged with tracking public money from our fellow audit institutions overseas.

We’re really keen to share the expertise and knowledge we’ve gleaned from this environment with auditors outside of Scotland. In 2017, we’ve already given visitors from the Board of Audit of Japan an insight into how we operate and hosted two interns from the Palestinian State Audit and Administrative Control Bureau for them to learn more about local government in Scotland. With the help of video conferencing technology, we had the pleasure of presenting at the Canadian National Performance Audit Symposium in Toronto. It was great to be able to showcase how we make the data from our reports come to life to an audience on the other side of the Atlantic – all from the comfort of our Edinburgh office.

As an organisation that strives to be world class, we very much see this learning process as a two-way street and we are keen to learn from the experience of other audit institutions. As part of our recently published ICT lessons learned briefing we included case studies and quotes from audit organisations worldwide including Australia, New Zealand and Holland. These brought an international perspective on how other organisations have dealt with ICT issues, which Scottish public sector organisations can learn from when managing their digital programmes.

With all of this activity going on, we’re delighted to launch our #GoingGlobal  web page – the first point of contact for anyone looking to visit us and learn more about public sector audit in Scotland. Keep an eye on it, as well as our #GoingGlobal posts on social media to find out about all of our latest international activity. You can also find more detail in our International Annual Report. We hope that people with an interest in audit, scrutiny and improving public services around the world see it as a helpful resource.

sarah p

Sarah Pollock is Audit Scotland’s International Liaison Manager

What’s next for the local government watchdog?

With the dust finally settling following May’s local elections, council administrations are beginning to take shape across Scotland. These new administrations will straight away need to get down to the business of running their councils and planning for the future, and in doing so, are facing some big questions.

How can they continue to provide high quality services for their communities as demographic pressures grow? How will they reduce inequalities at a time when public finances are constrained? How can they meet the increased expectations of the public as the community empowerment agenda takes shape?

As the independent spending watchdog for local government, the Accounts Commission is acutely aware of these challenges. Indeed, we reported on them in detail in our annual flagship 2017 overview of local government in Scotland.

In our Strategy and annual action plan 2017-2022, published today, the Commission has set out our expectations of local authorities over the coming years.  The overriding message of the Strategy is that councils should be able to meet their statutory duty of Best Value by demonstrating a pace, depth and continuity of improvement in their performance. In last year’s engagement sessions with council leaders and chief executives and in engaging with councils in our audit work, the Commission has heard concerns about how this can be achieved within the challenging context that councils are operating in. But continuous improvement isn’t about coming top of every single indicator all of the time. Rather, it’s about choosing clear priorities to focus on, showing how the choices have been arrived at, and reporting clearly to citizens the progress against these priorities and on the quality and cost of services.

With this in mind, the Commission has started its new approach to auditing Best Value, and will be reporting on six councils in the coming year. This will evaluate how councils are progressing a number of priority areas, including: choosing clear priorities and having better long-term planning; redesigning services in a way that goes beyond just making incremental financial savings; ensuring they have the right people in place to plan and deliver these services; involving citizens more in decision-making; and reporting their performance in a way that enhances their accountability to communities.

We have also committed to making sure that all of our audit work contains practical advice for councillors and pointers to good practice. We want our work to contribute to improving local government in Scotland in these challenging times.

Whether you’re a council tax payer, a newly elected councillor, a council officer or just have an interest in local government in Scotland, I’d encourage you to take a look at our Strategy here. And if you’d like to see which areas the Accounts Commission will be focusing on over the next five years, you can find out more on our work programme web page.

About the author

AuditScotland_P_006Ronnie Hinds is Acting Chair of the Accounts Commission and a former chief executive of Fife Council. He also chairs the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland.