Publication - FOI/EIR release

Ministerial written authority under section 15(8) of Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) act 2000: FOI release

Published: 21 Dec 2021

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

Published:
21 Dec 2021
Ministerial written authority under section 15(8) of Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) act 2000: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202100252510
Date received: 3 Nov 2021
Date responded: 24 Nov 2021
Information requested

On how many occasions was written authority asked for from a minister under section 15(8) of Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000 by an accountable officer in any part of the Scottish administration, between 10 May 2021 and 3 November 2021.

And in each case,

  • the relevant minister
  • the date it was asked for
  • whether it related to measures taken specifically related to the COVID pandemic
  • if not, what the subject was
  • whether the written authority asked for was provided
  • if so, on what date or dates it was sent to the Auditor General and the Clerk to the Public Audit Committee.
Response

The Principal Accountable Officer for the Scottish Administration (the Permanent Secretary) and Accountable Officers designated by them for parts of the Scottish Administration are under a statutory duty to obtain written authority from the relevant Minister where they consider that any action they are required to take would be inconsistent with their responsibilities. These responsibilities include ensuring financial propriety and regularity and ensuring that relevant resources are used economically, efficiently and effectively (i.e. value for money).

A value for money written authority need only be sought in relation to the implementation of policy. Accountable Officers are not answerable to the Parliament in respect of policy decisions. Policy is the responsibility of Ministers.

Since devolution there have been five occasions where Accountable Officers for parts of the Scottish Administration have sought written authority. All were before the 1st of August 2010 and all were sought in relation to value for money, two were on the same issue. This information is currently in the public domain but I have included the publicly available table in this response for ease.

More details on the Accountable officer role in relation to value for money can be found in the Scottish Public Finance Manual on the Scottish Government website;
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Government/Finance/spfm/Accountability

Therefore in answer to your request I can confirm that there have been no written authorities under section 15(8) of Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000 requested by an accountable officer in any part of the Scottish administration, between the dates 10 May 2021 and 3 November 2021, the last occurrence was on 22nd of August 2007.

Written Authorities From Ministers to Accountable Officers: From 1 July 1999

Description

Background

Portfolio

Accountable Officer

Minister

Date

Campbeltown to Ballycastle Ferry Service

In the light of the financial and economic appraisals that were carried out officials had advised Ministers that, with a high anticipated subsidy requirement and a low level of forecast employment creation, the project represented very poor value for money in terms of the probable costs and economic benefits.

ELLD

Nicola Munro

Wendy Alexander

29/01/02

Lifeline Air Services Glasgow & Barra

Officials advised Ministers that the savings from the withdrawal of air services out of Barra would have a positive NPV for the Sound of Barra vessel. A written authority was therefore sought to act on the Ministers' decision to continue the Glasgow - Barra air service.

ETLLD

Nicola Munro

Iain Gray

19/3/03

Relocation of Scottish Natural Heritage

SNH were subject to a relocation review in pursuance of the Executive’s relocation policy. Their main headquarters functions are at present housed in two buildings in Edinburgh. The option appraisal showed that a move to anywhere outside Edinburgh would be significantly more expensive than the status quo.

ERAD

John Graham

Ross Finnie

26/3/03

Campbeltown to Ballycastle Ferry Service

In light of the financial and economic appraisals that had been carried out officials had advised Ministers that, with a high subsidy requirement and a low level of forecast employment creation, the project did not pass the value for money appraisals applied to such proposals. (The 2002 written authority did not cover this tendering exercise – it was effectively spent at the conclusion of that tendering exercise.)

ETLLD

Eddie Frizzell

Nichol Stephen

30/3/05

HMP Bishopbriggs

The Accountable Officer was concerned that cancelling the competition for a PFI design, build and operate contract and beginning a new competition to design and build a prison  for public sector operation would result in significant additional expenditure (because of the gap in cost efficiency between public and private operation) and import significant delay into the project (because the procurement process would effectively go back to start).

Justice / SPS

Mike Ewart

Kenny MacAskill

22/08/07


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