Performance audit – unique and unifying work from around the world

Fraser imageBy Fraser McKinlay, Director of Performance Audit and Best Value

In March, I was lucky enough to travel to Sydney, Australia, to speak at the IMPACT 2018 conference.  It’s a biannual gathering of performance auditors, organised by the Australasian Council of Auditors General (ACAG), and this year hosted by the Auditor General of New South Wales.

It was a fantastic opportunity to share with colleagues my experiences of auditing in an increasingly devolved Scotland, and learn from the best approaches to performance auditing around the world. Continue reading Performance audit – unique and unifying work from around the world

Why 2018 matters: social security and the Scottish Government

by Caroline Gardner

Caroline_twitter_400pxA new phase in Scotland’s devolved powers began with last week’s passing of the Social Security Bill.

Major new responsibilities for delivering benefits worth around £3 billion a year now sit with the Scottish Government. Unsurprisingly, the stakes are high.

The Government is committed to delivering the first wave of devolved benefits by summer 2019, including the carer’s allowance supplement, the Best Start grant, and assistance with funeral expenses. Continue reading Why 2018 matters: social security and the Scottish Government

Reporting on social security – behind the scenes

Caroline_twitter_400pxBy Caroline Gardner, Auditor General for Scotland

Around 1.4m of the most vulnerable people in Scotland will be affected by Parliament’s major new social security powers – the main focus of my recent report on the implementation of the Scotland Acts.

A huge amount of work is facing the Scottish Government as they prepare to take responsibility for benefits to carers and disabled people, some ill-health related benefits, parts of the Social Fund, and discretionary housing payments. Continue reading Reporting on social security – behind the scenes

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

‘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

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

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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