Social Security Scotland: framework document

Sets out the detailed accountability and governance framework for Social Security Scotland, and the context for the Agency's relationship with Scottish Ministers and core Scottish Government Directorates.

Roles and Responsibilities

12. The roles and responsibilities of Scottish Ministers, the Director General for Organisational Development and Operations (Portfolio Accountable Officer), the Agency Chief Executive (Agency Accountable Officer), and the Senior Management Team are set out below.

Scottish Ministers

13. Scottish Ministers are ultimately accountable to Parliament for the functions and performance of the Agency.

14. The Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People is responsible for determining the overall policy and resources framework within which the Agency operates. Operating within that framework, the Cabinet Secretary also maintains oversight of the activities of Social Security Scotland, including:

  • Monitoring the performance of the Agency and holding the Chief Executive to account for Agency performance;
  • Taking decisions within the policy context under which the Agency operates and, as appropriate, agreeing draft Regulations, relating to benefits and schemes for which the Agency has delivery responsibility, for consultation and laying;
  • Setting the Agency's strategic objectives and related performance targets;
  • Approving corporate and business plans, including performance targets and measures;
  • Setting the budget for the Agency;
  • Receiving the annual report and audited financial accounts from the Chief Executive prior to them being laid before the Scottish Parliament; and
  • Approving this and future Agency Framework Documents and ensuring that they are consistent with the portfolio's policy and resources framework.

Director General

15. The Director General for Organisational Development and Operations is the Accountable Officer for the portfolio of which the Agency forms a part. The Portfolio Accountable Officer has delegated some of her authorities and responsibilities to the Director for Social Security. These delegations are clearly defined at paragraph 18. The Portfolio Accountable Officer delegates the Agency Accountable Officer responsibilities to the Agency Chief Executive and these are clearly defined at paragraphs 19-22.

16. Responsibilities of the Portfolio Accountable Officer include:

  • Supporting Ministers in the discharge of their duties towards the Agency, including in agreeing the Agency's strategic objectives and related performance targets and outcomes; agreeing the corporate and business plans;
  • Ensuring the working relationship between Chief Executive and Ministers is open, transparent, healthy and effective;
  • Ensuring that the Agency objectives and performance contribute to and are part of the Portfolio as a whole; and are aligned to the Government's Purpose and Values as set out in the National Performance Framework [5] ;
  • Ensuring that there is a clear framework for strategic performance improvement and management of the Agency's work; providing support and constructive challenge to ensure that the Agency is high performing and continuously improving; and ensuring that operational accountability is being exercised properly;
  • Monitoring the financial performance, operational effectiveness and risk management arrangements of the Agency on the basis of information and advice from the Chief Executive and from Scottish Government (" SG") Finance, seeking clarification on any matter as and when required;
  • Approving matters not covered by the delegated authority arrangements set out in the Agency Framework Document;
  • Ensuring the Agency is taking steps to improve its operating efficiency, including through participation in collaborative procurement and shared service arrangements;
  • Promoting integration and organisational alignment between the Agency and the SG as appropriate, e.g. by involving the Agency Chief Executive in portfolio management arrangements; holding regular meetings with the Chief Executive; ensuring the Chief Executive is aware of SG-wide strategic developments and corporate decisions impacting on the Agency; and ensuring that the position of the Agency is taken into account by relevant SG policy decisions;
  • Representing the interests of the Agency within the wider SG, ensuring the SG has due regard for the advice provided by the Agency and ensuring the Agency Chief Executive is aware of SG-wide strategic developments and corporate decisions impacting on the management or operations of the Agency and that, where appropriate, SG-wide corporate services are available to support and facilitate the work of the Agency;
  • Performance appraisal of the Chief Executive, taking account of the organisational performance of the Agency as well as individual performance as Chief Executive;
  • Ensuring that the Chief Executive is briefed on those issues which may affect the Agency's operations;
  • Ensuring that the design and continuous development of the social security system in Scotland is managed in conjunction with the Agency.

17. The Portfolio Accountable Officer has delegated some of his/her responsibilities in respect of the Agency to the Director for Social Security.

18. The Director for Social Security will act in the capacity of a Portfolio Sponsor [6] in representing the respective interests of the Agency within Scottish Government and to Scottish Ministers. The Portfolio Sponsor of the Agency will:

  • advise Ministers on the strategic direction of the Agency in the context of wider SG objectives;
  • agree with the Chief Executive a framework for strategic performance management of the Agency;
  • lead discussions with SG Finance on Agency funding allocations;
  • advise Ministers on their response to strategic performance information;
  • advise the Chief Executive on steering the Agency's activities to ensure that they most effectively support the delivery of SG objectives; and
  • ensure that the Agency has the delegations and authorities necessary for effective delivery and continuous improvement.

Chief Executive

19. The Chief Executive is a member of the Senior Civil Service and is the Agency's Accountable Officer. The Chief Executive is accountable personally to Scottish Ministers and to the Scottish Parliament for the effective and efficient operation of the Agency and for effective financial management. He/she is responsible for the management of the Agency as a high performing and continuously improving best value organisation, and is directly accountable to the relevant Director General (as Portfolio Accountable Officer), the Permanent Secretary (as Principal Accountable Officer) and to Scottish Ministers on a day to day basis. The Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People and the Chief Executive of Social Security Scotland meet on a monthly basis.

20. Detail of Accountable Officer arrangements in respect of the Agency are set out in paragraphs 30-38.

21. As part of the Organisational Development and Operations portfolio, and the Scottish Government Senior Civil Service, the Chief Executive will ensure that the Agency works with other parts of Government in support of the achievement of the strategic objectives and national outcomes. The Chief Executive and Director General share a mutual responsibility for ensuring an effective relationship which allows each to discharge their responsibilities. The Chief Executive will carry out his/her duties in a way which supports the Portfolio Accountable Officer.

22. Key responsibilities of the Chief Executive are:

  • Leadership
    • In delivery of the Agency's functions, as determined by Scottish Ministers;
    • Providing advice directly to, and working closely with, Scottish Ministers on all matters relating to the Agency's functions;
  • Financial
    • Being Accountable Officer for Agency funds, both benefit payments and operating costs, and to deliver organisational or operational change;
    • Ensuring that all relevant financial considerations and Scottish Government guidance, including issues of propriety, regularity and value for money, are taken into account throughout the Agency's business;
    • Providing support to the Director General, including assurance about the financial performance and operational effectiveness of the Agency, and risk management arrangements in place at the Agency. These arrangements include the establishment of an appropriately experienced Audit and Assurance Committee to advise the Chief Executive on these matters;
    • Preparing an Annual Report and Accounts for the Agency as directed by Scottish Ministers. In signing these accounts, the Chief Executive takes personal responsibility for their proper preparation; and
    • Ensuring Best Value in both front line delivery and corporate support functions of the Agency, including use of collaborative procurement and shared service arrangements where participation offers value for money for the Agency and the wider public purse.
  • Managerial
    • Management and development of staff: ensuring they have the tools, expertise and resources required for the Agency and the rest of the Scottish Government to deliver successfully, and supporting their well-being;
    • Being responsible for the efficient and effective operation and financial management of the Agency and for performance against key targets;
    • Setting in place appropriate operational structures, business systems and procedures, including systems for financial management and control, internal audit and risk management arrangements;
    • Responding to Parliamentary Committees on matters within the Agency's responsibilities, whether in day to day support of Scottish Ministers or directly as Accountable Officer;
    • Replying to correspondence from MSPs (or other elected representatives where appropriate) on operational and contractual matters within the Agency's responsibilities; and otherwise supporting Scottish Ministers by preparing Ministerial briefing, responses to Ministerial correspondence and written or oral Questions from MSPs in the Scottish Parliament; and
    • Keeping this Framework Document under review, discussing proposed changes with the Director for Social Security.

23. Delivery of these responsibilities is supported by the provision of the key supporting services outlined in paragraphs 54-58.

Internal governance structures

24. The Agency's key internal governance structures are the Agency Senior Leadership Team, the Agency Executive Advisory Body, and the Agency Audit and Assurance Committee.

25. The Agency's Senior Leadership Team consists of the Chief Executive and the most senior staff of the Agency.

26. The Agency Chief Executive is supported in his/her role by an Executive Advisory Body ("the Body"). The Body is chaired by the Chief Executive and is advisory in status. It is composed of the Agency's Senior Leadership Team alongside four non-executive members. The non-executive members perform an important role in offering constructive challenge and advice to the Chief Executive on Agency strategy and effective governance.

27. The role of the Body is to:

  • Provide strategic advice, scrutiny, and constructive challenge to the Chief Executive and the management team;
  • Encourage performance improvement and promote good governance;
  • Help ensure the Agency delivers on its purpose and principles underpinning the delivery of social security in Scotland,
  • Provide independent advice on risk and governance.

28. As its operations grow in scale, the Agency may establish standing committees to support the work of the Body.

29. The activity of the Agency is reviewed by an Audit and Assurance Committee, which takes an independent and objective view of the Agency's activity in line with the Audit and Assurance Committee handbook. The terms of reference of the Audit and Assurance Committee are set out in Annex D.


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