Publication - FOI/EIR release

European Structural Funding and Scottish Funding Council: FOI release

Published: 18 May 2018

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Published:
18 May 2018
European Structural Funding and Scottish Funding Council: FOI release

FOI reference: FOI/18/01184
Date received: 19 April 2018
Date responded: 18 May 2018

Information requested

Various requests for information regarding European Structural Funding (ESF) and Scottish Funding Council.

Response

1. I note that ESF funding was awarded for Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) for 2015- 2018 ESF Grant Approved £27.95 Million. Please advise if the Scottish Government took receipt of this £27.95 Million and advise the date of this Transaction?

SFC was awarded the £27.9m in ESF grant. The Scottish Government pays out the grant funding per claim then retrospectively draws this down from the European Commission. As previously advised in the response to FOI/18/00756 no ESF grant has been drawn down by SFC for YEI.

2. Further it is stated that YEI Version 1 for Academic Year 2015/16 Amount Claimed £8.73m was rejected. Please advise the date that should this claim been accepted it would have been paid to the SFC?

The claim was rejected on the 30 August 2017. Should it have been accepted it would have been paid circa w/c 4 September 2017.

3. Further is then continues then states that YEI Version 2 for AY year 2015/16 Amount claimed £8.06m a difference of £66m from the first date of claim was rejected. Please advise the date this ESF Claim was made?

The difference is £672,218.46 not £66m. The date of this ESF Claim was 31 October 2017.

4. Please advise the date that should have this claim be accepted it would have been paid to the SFC?

The claim was rejected on the 3 April 2018. Should it have been accepted it would have been paid circa w/c 7 April 2018.

5. Please advise the justifiable reasons submitted by SFC for this discrepancy of £66m (not a small amount of money, considering students are suffering in Education Poverty, and many are refused discretionary payments for essential everyday living. As noted at Question 3, the difference is £672,218.46 not £66m. This resulted from the removal of ineligible costs from the claim.

6. Further it is stated that DSW Version 1 for Academic Year 2015/16 Amount Claimed £2.59 Million is still being processed. I note that ESF funding was awarded for Developing Scotland's Workforce (DSW) for 2016- 2018 ESF Grant Approved £8.64 Million. Please advise the date that should this claim which this claim should be rejected or accepted?

The claim for 2016-18 cannot be submitted until the verification check for the claim for 2015/16 has been completed and a final decision made.

7. If this is accepted when would this amount be been paid to the SFC? As noted at Question 6 above, the claim for 2016-18 has not been submitted so we cannot advise on the timing of payment

8. Further is then continues then states that DWP Version 2 for AY year 2015/16 Amount claimed £8.06m a difference of £2.59 Million from the first date of claim was rejected. Please advise the date that this claim should be rejected or accepted?

The £8.06m relates to YEI and not DSW. The £2.59m relates to the Version 2 claim for DSW which is being processed and we cannot advise on timing at this time.

9. If this is accepted when would this amount £2.59 Million be been paid to the SFC?

As noted at Question 8, we cannot advise on timing at this time.

10. You State that for the DWS Claim - The latest version of the DSW claim submitted is for £2.59m ESF grant resulting in potential shortfall of £0.7m grant for 2015-16. As a decision on this claim has not yet been reached by the SG Managing Authority it is not possible to determine figures at this stage. Please advise in writing that per the information you have supplied, there will be shortfall of an amount regardless due to the first claim being rejected because of a lack of sufficient audit evidence to meet EC requirements. As previously advised in the response to FOI/18/00756 https://beta.gov.scot/publications/foi-18-00756/, there will be a shortfall in grant for 2015-16.

11. Does the Scottish Government consider that the SFC have failed in their remit to execute the professional and ethical standards required of the NDPB, by not ensuring that the audit evidence is not sufficient to meet EC Requirements, surely this must put the Scottish Government in a highly tenuous position thus weakening any confidence in your administration? Please provide all recorded information relating to this issue.

As you may be aware, the Court of Session judgment – Glasgow City Council and Dundee City Council v Scottish Information Commissioner [2009] CSIH 73 (issued on 30 September 2009) – clarified that the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) gives a right to information, not documents, and that information requests must identify the information sought. A request is not valid if it does not, in accordance with section 8(1)(c) of FOISA, describe the information requested. As your request seeks the Scottish Government's opinion on a specific matter and does not reasonably clearly identify the particular information you are looking for, we do not consider it to be a valid request in line with the Court of Session decision. Accordingly, we are not obliged to respond to it. However, if you wish to rephrase your request to clearly describe the information you are looking for, we would be able to consider it and respond in accordance with FOISA. If you need any further advice and assistance to rephrase your request, please contact me. You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner's 'Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs' on his website at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourRights/Tipsforrequesters.aspx

12. You state: The management of any budgetary pressure on the SFC arising from a shortfall in ESF income will be agreed between the SFC and SG. Again, who currently holds the three year ESF Funding Monies, the ESF or The Scottish Government for the funding period 2015-2018. As noted at Question 1, the Scottish Government pays out the grant funding per claim then retrospectively draws this down from the European Commission.

13. Was the ESF funding allocated to the Scottish Government on an annual Basis or at the end if the three year funding period?

As noted at Question 1, the Scottish Government pays out the grant funding per claim then retrospectively draws this down from the European Commission.

14. Please provide recorded information support your disclosure relating to the financial amounts involved. Claims are held on the EUMIS system and it is not possible to drawn this information into a shareable format i.e. PDF. All of the financial information on awards and claims was provided under FOI/18/00756https://beta.gov.scot/publications/foi-18-00756/.

15. Please detail in full should the Scottish Government have received this funding at any point since 2015, the accounting method in which has been used to vire or re-profile these cash reserves, ensuring their safe keeping as I expect Scottish Government would not expect such professional and highly paid sector professionals to make such a school by faux pas in not ensuring that a sufficient audit evidence. As set out in the response to Question 11 above, your request seeks information and advice in relation to a specific policy matter and does not reasonably clearly identify the particular information you are looking for. Therefore, we do not consider it to be a valid request in line with the Court of Session decision and accordingly, are not obliged to respond to it. However, if you wish to rephrase your request to clearly describe the information you are looking for, we would be able to consider it and respond in accordance with FOISA. Please contact me if you need any further advice and assistance to rephrase your request.

16. However that being said the sector is not without controversy relating to the SFC's accountability for the overseeing of or lack of knowledge of what individual colleges WSUMS and Credit Claims since 2014/15 which has led to a number of colleges finding themselves in financial deficits. I note that SFC claim an overall annual saving in and around the mark of £52 Million due to the merger program, given that certain colleges are in financial difficulty and that the SFC Overarching review and the Audit Scotland Review Claimed these figures despite not including one very large college, Edinburgh College, whose deficit has risen to an incredible amount and that the finance officer now Chief Operating Officer responsible for let's call them not factually accurate submissions is still in position, this does not only make the claim that there is an annual saving of £52m incorrect, but there has been no tangible action to remedy this situation or provide an accurate figure from the Scottish Government or the Scottish Parliament either that is visible to the Scottish Public of whom they serve. Please now provide a more accurate annual saving in relation to the college merger program?

As set out in the response to Question 11 above, your request seeks information and advice in relation to a specific policy matter and does not reasonably clearly identify the particular information you are looking for. Therefore, we do not consider it to be a valid request in line with the Court of Session decision and accordingly, are not obliged to respond to it. However, if you wish to rephrase your request to clearly describe the information you are looking for, we would be able to consider it and respond in accordance with FOISA. Please contact me if you need any further advice and assistance to rephrase your request.

17. Please now advise per the conditions of grant funding what measure the Scottish Government can take in what appears to be gross misconduct by the SFC to dully discharge their duties under these conditions of grant, and can I be subjective in assuming that the Colleges themselves did not provide accurate audit information to the SFC who should have picked this issue up and ensured compliance, will the individual senior college management teams be held to account for not performing the functions of their duties to the standard expected of them in public life?

As set out in the response to Question 11 above, your request seeks information and advice in relation to a specific policy matter and does not reasonably clearly identify the particular information you are looking for. Therefore, we do not consider it to be a valid request in line with the Court of Session decision and accordingly, are not obliged to respond to it. However, if you wish to rephrase your request to clearly describe the information you are looking for, we would be able to consider it and respond in accordance with FOISA. Please contact me if you need any further advice and assistance to rephrase your request.

18. The role of the Scottish Government Civil Servant who whose responsibility it would be to oversee the this ESF funding, and to ensure that all responsible were performing the the full functions of their remit over the space of time, as the SFC are reliant on being reimbursed for all ESF funding paid out to the Colleges. We are talking the public pound here and the public are entitled to know if Scottish Government were in fact performing the full functions of their remit.

The Head of the Scottish Government's European Structural Funds State Aid Division oversees the Scottish Government's role as the Managing Authority for European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) in Scotland with responsibility for supervising the implementation, ongoing management and effectiveness of the funding programmes.

The Director of Advanced Learning and Science at the Scottish Government oversees sponsorship of the Scottish Funding Council and the delivery of further and higher education in Scotland.

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