The accountability approach
The accountability and audit landscape is well-established across the UK and continues to provide a sound base for accountability to respective Parliaments for the use of public resources.
- Individuals may be designated as personally answerable to Parliament for the conduct of certain functions.
- Annual accounts report on the finances and performance of public bodies.
- National audit bodies are tasked with responsibility for the conduct of the statutory audits of annual accounts and for performance audits (examinations of economy, efficiency and effectiveness).
Under the current devolution arrangements, some UK-wide public bodies will support the delivery of devolved functions in Scotland, specified UK-wide public bodies which carry out reserved functions in Scotland have additional obligations to the Scottish Parliament in respect of certain activities in Scotland, and some Scottish public bodies may be responsible for matters which continue to be of UK-wide interest. Where functions are devolved to the Scottish Parliament and a new public body is established to deliver these, that body will be brought within the existing accountability and audit framework, within the scope of the Auditor General for Scotland.
The accountability framework for these arrangements needs to be:
- based on clear principles which recognise the statutory position and legitimate interests of the different parties involved
- built on established accountability structures which have been shown to work well
- reciprocated as far as possible, so that what applies to a relationship between the UK and Scottish bodies can also be seen to apply between Scotland and UK-wide bodies
- aware and supportive of the interests of each legislature in scrutinising the delivery of public services which have a distinct and significant impact on their responsibilities
- reviewed periodically to ensure that they continue to be seen as efficient and effective, and do not result in duplication
In many cases, statutory provisions will underpin the functions and relationships for public bodies delivering services across borders, and these will take precedence over non-statutory agreements. In other cases, agreements may be reached which do not require statutory authority, or which go beyond the statutory requirements.
The arrangements in place (and yet to be put in place) reflect the implementation of the Fiscal Framework, and enhance the interests and ability to ensure accountability of the respective Parliaments. Any such agreements should be captured in a written document between the public bodies involved. This framework should be referred to when legislation is considered in the future.