Best value in public services: guidance for accountable officers
This document is issued by Scottish Ministers to provide guidance for accountable officers on the duty to ensure that arrangements are in place to secure best value in public services.
ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES IN BEST VALUE
THE ROLE OF THE SCOTTISH MINISTERS
1. Scottish Ministers are ultimately accountable to the Scottish Parliament for the activities and performance of individual Public Bodies. Public Bodies are required to comply with relevant guidance issued by the Scottish Ministers, including any in relation to compliance with the principles of Best Value and the reporting of performance.
THE ROLE OF THE PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER
2. The Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000 (the PFA Act) sets out the rules for spending money, accounting requirements, accountability of officials and auditing arrangements. Section 14 of the Act makes provision for the appointment of the Permanent Secretary as the Principal Accountable Officer for the Scottish Administration and sets out specific functions. The Principal Accountable Officer is responsible for the overall assigned budget and the consolidated accounts of the Scottish Government and in general charge of the Scottish Administration.
3. The Principal Accountable Officer for the Scottish Administration has a responsibility to designate Accountable Officers for Public Bodies under sections 15(1) and (3) of the PFA Act. The first category is for parts of the Scottish Administration and secondly for other bodies; in the second case, the accounts of these other bodies are required by statute to be audited by, or under the control of, the Auditor General for Scotland. The Auditor General for Scotland is wholly independent and is held accountable through the Scottish Parliament for how Audit Scotland carries out the audit of public bodies in the first and second categories. (Annex C has more detail)
4. The responsibilities of these Accountable Officers are essentially those determined by the Principal Accountable Officer and are set out in either the " Memorandum to Accountable Officers for Parts of the Scottish Administration" or the " Memorandum to Accountable Officers for Other Public Bodies", as appropriate. These Memoranda are published in the Accountability section of the SPFM.
THE ROLE OF THE PORTFOLIO ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER
5. The role of Portfolio Accountable Officers within the core Scottish Government with regard to Public Bodies is addressed in the Accountability section of the SPFM and the Memorandum to Accountable Officers for Parts of the Scottish Administration.
6. Under the terms of the SPFM, Portfolio Accountable Officers within the Scottish Government are responsible for putting in place appropriate "framework documents" for all relevant bodies setting out accountability arrangements and other relevant matters, including those relating to compliance with the principles of Best Value.
THE ROLE OF THE CHAIR OF A PUBLIC BODY BOARD
7. The Chair of a Public Body Board (where a Board exists) is appointed by the Scottish Ministers. The Chair of the Board of a Public Body is personally responsible to the Scottish Ministers for ensuring that the Public Body's policies and actions support the wider strategic policies of the Scottish Ministers and that there is probity in the conduct of the body's affairs. There are a number of other responsibilities, which are set out in the relevant guidance for Public Bodies 13 and also the Model Management Statement/Financial memorandum in the SPFM14.
THE ROLE OF THE BOARD MEMBERS OF A PUBLIC BODY BOARD
8. Where Board Members of a Public Body (where a Board exists) have been appointed by Scottish Ministers (and are not operating solely in an advisory capacity) then those Board members have corporate responsibility for ensuring that the Public Body complies with any statutory or administrative requirements for the use of public funds.
9. In addition the guidance on Best Value in the SPFM imposes a corporate responsibility on the Boards of Public Bodies to promote the efficient and effective use of staff and other resources by the bodies concerned in accordance with the principles of Best Value. This responsibility for Best Value remains with individual Board Members when they are also members (by virtue of their original Board membership) on relevant subgroups of the Board, Standing Committees and other relevant engagement mechanisms.
10. There are a number of other responsibilities of relevance to the duty of Best Value, such as duties under the UK Equality Act 2010, both at a corporate level as a Board and as individual Board members. Further details on these are set out in the relevant guidance for Public Bodies.
THE ROLE OF THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE AS ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER
11. The Chief Executive of a public body has accountability to the Board for the overall organisation, management and staffing of the organisation. As well as advising the Board on strategy, the Chief Executive must devise and implement appropriate management structures and processes as well as ensuring the organisation has the necessary resources to deliver the strategy and outcomes agreed by the Board 15.
12. In addition to these executive management roles, the Chief Executive of a Public Body is normally designated by the Principal Accountable Officer as the body's Accountable Officer in accordance with sections 14 and 15 of the PFA Act. Under section 15(6) of the PFA Act, Accountable Officers (designated by the Principal Accountable Officer) are personally answerable to the Scottish Parliament for the exercise of their functions.
13. As the Accountable Officer for the Public Body the Chief Executive is therefore personally responsible for propriety and regularity in the management of the public funds for which they have charge and for ensuring that resources are used economically, efficiently and effectively.
14. The Accountable Officer has a number of specific responsibilities: these are set out in Memorandum to Accountable Officers for Other Public Bodies including ensuring that arrangements are in place to secure Best Value. The Scottish Ministers expect all Accountable Officers (whether within the Scottish Administration or Public Bodies) to comply with the duty of Best Value placed upon them.
15. Members of the Board (including the Chair) should not give the Chief Executive instructions which conflict with the latter's duties as the Accountable Officer of the Public Body in question. In accordance with section 15(8) of the PFA Act, an Accountable Officer has particular and personal responsibility to ensure that, where they consider that any action that they are required to take (from whatever source) is inconsistent with the proper performance of their duties as an Accountable Officer, they obtain written authority from the Scottish Ministers/Board, as appropriate, before taking the action in question.
THE ROLE OF THE "SPONSOR" DIRECTORATE
16. In relation to Public Bodies the relevant Directorate in the core Scottish Government will be the main conduit for engagement, with support from the Scottish Government Public Bodies Policy Division and others as appropriate.
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