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.


(which are not explained elsewhere in the guidance)

Accountable Officer

The Permanent Secretary is the Principal Accountable Officer ( PAO) for the Scottish Administration by virtue of the Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000. Accountable Officers are personally answerable to the Parliament for the exercise of those functions determined by the Principal Accountable Officer .

The essence of the Accountable Officer's role is a personal responsibility for the propriety and regularity of the public finances for which they are answerable and for the economic, efficient and effective use of all available resources. The functions of Accountable Officers designated by the PAO are set out in the "Memorandum to Accountable Officers for Parts of the Scottish Administration" and the "Memorandum to Accountable Officers for Other Public Bodies".

Auditor General for Scotland and Audit Scotland

The Auditor General for Scotland is a Crown Appointment who is independent of the Scottish Ministers and reports to the Scottish Parliament. The Auditor General for Scotland does not scrutinise local authorities, police boards or fire and rescue boards (that role is carried out by the Accounts Commission). Public Bodies that the Auditor General for Scotland scrutinises include:

  • the Scottish Government;
  • government agencies, e.g. the Prison Service, Historic Scotland;
  • National Health Service ( NHS) bodies;
  • further education colleges;
  • Scottish Water; and
  • Non-departmental Public Bodies ( NDPBs) and others, e.g. Scottish Enterprise.

Audit Scotland helps the Auditor General for Scotland by investigating, on their behalf, various aspects of how Public Bodies work. The Auditor General for Scotland is responsible for how Audit Scotland performs.

Community Planning

Community Planning has a key role in improving public service delivery in Scotland, placing communities at the heart of decision-making, leading to healthier, safer, more vibrant communities. Building upon a tradition of partnership working, Community Planning aims to:

  • make sure people and communities are genuinely engaged in the decisions made on public services which affect them; allied to
  • a commitment from organisations to work together, not apart, in providing better public services.

Efficient Government

The Scottish Government is dedicated to ensuring that all public services work with maximum efficiency to deliver maximum benefit to the people of Scotland. Efficient Government supports sustainable economic growth and improved quality of life by delivering improved public services.

Public Bodies should identify opportunities for efficiency improvements as part of their annual corporate and business planning processes and include these in an efficiency plan along with the arrangements for measuring, monitoring and reporting efficiency savings. They should also have efficiency performance indicators such as the cost per unit/service which allows them to continually monitor the efficiency of their operations and quality indicators that can be used to demonstrate that claimed efficiencies have not impacted adversely on services.

National Outcomes

Fifteen National Outcomes describe what the Government wants to achieve over the next ten years, articulating more fully the Scottish Government Strategic Purpose 16. They help to sharpen the focus of government, enable Scottish Government priorities to be clearly understood and provide a clear structure for delivery.

Public Bodies

The term "public bodies" covers a wide and diverse range of organisations of varying size and responsibilities. Further information on Public Bodies in Scotland is available on the Scottish Government website using this link -

Public Service Reform

The Scottish Government's core purpose is to create a more successful Scotland with opportunities for all through increasing sustainable economic growth. Scotland's Public Bodies play a vital role in the delivery of public services which benefit and assist individuals and businesses.

The Government believes strongly in the ethos, value and importance of public services and their continuous improvement for the benefit of the people of Scotland. National Outcome 15, within the Scottish Government's National Performance Framework, states the Government's aim to ensure that "our public services are high quality, continually improving, efficient and responsive to local people's needs".

Scottish Public Finance Manual

The Scottish Public Finance Manual ( SPFM) is issued by the Scottish Ministers to provide guidance to the Scottish Government and other relevant bodies on the proper handling of public funds. It is mainly designed to ensure compliance with statutory and parliamentary requirements, promote value for money and high standards of propriety, and secure effective accountability and good systems of internal control.

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