On Board - A guide for Board Members of Public Bodies in Scotland (April 2015)

This Guide provides much of the basic information that a Board Member will need to understand their role as a member of the Board of a public body in Scotland.

Role and Responsibilities of the Accountable Officer

The Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government is the Principal Accountable Officer of the Scottish Administration. The Principal Accountable Officer designates Directors-General as Portfolio Accountable Officers. The Portfolio Accountable Officer has specific responsibilities with regard to a sponsored public body with its own Accountable Officer. These are set out in a Memorandum sent by the Principal Accountable Officer on appointment.

Where a public body manages its own budget, the Chief Executive will normally be designated as its Accountable Officer. Accountable Officers are personally answerable to the Scottish Parliament for the exercise of their functions, as set out in the Memorandum to Accountable Officers for Other Public Bodies issued to the Chief

Executive at the time of formal designation (normally at the same time as they are appointed as Chief Executive).

It is incumbent on the Chief Executive to combine their Accountable Officer responsibilities to the Scottish Parliament with their wider responsibilities to the Board. The Board and Chair should be fully aware of, and have regard to, the Accountable Officer responsibilities placed upon the Chief Executive.

If the Board has serious concerns about the actions and performance of the public body's Accountable Officer, it can recommend to the Principal Accountable Officer that Accountable Officer status should be withdrawn or suspended. The same option is open to the Principal Accountable Officer in the exercise of their own responsibilities.


The Accountable Officer

  • Signs the annual accounts and associated governance statements;
  • Ensures the propriety and regularity of the public body's finances and that there are sound and effective arrangements for internal control and risk management;
  • Ensures that the resources of the public body are used economically, efficiently and effectively, and that arrangements are in place to secure Best Value for the organisation and deliver Value for Money for the public sector as a whole;
  • Ensures compliance with relevant guidance issued by the Scottish Ministers, in particular the Scottish Public Finance Manual;
  • Has a statutory duty to obtain written authority from the Board/Chair before taking any action which they consider would be inconsistent with the proper performance of the Accountable Officer functions. The Accountable Officer should also notify, where considered appropriate, the relevant Portfolio Accountable Officer;
  • Represents the public body before the Public Audit Committee of the Scottish Parliament;
  • May have their Accountable Officer status withdrawn or suspended if the Principal Accountable Officer has serious concerns about their actions and performance.


Email: Gordon Quinn

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