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Former Auditor General calls for public services watchdog

  • by ANDREW WHITAKER
 

A NEW public services watchdog should be launched to monitor the spending decisions of poorly performing councils and health boards, Scotland’s former Auditor General has said.

A NEW public services watchdog should be launched to monitor the spending decisions of poorly performing councils and health boards, Scotland’s former Auditor General has said.

Robert Black has called for an Australian-style productivity commission to carry out reviews of how effectively taxpayers’ cash is being spent on areas such as disability care and support, carbon cutting and early years support.

Mr Black insisted such a body would be a “spur to change” and would encourage public organisations to make the most of scarce resources if they knew they were to come “under the spotlight” of a new watchdog. He said the commission would be accountable to the Scottish Parliament and could “make good use” of the existing work of watchdog, Audit Scotland, on monitoring the spending of public bodies.

Mr Black made the call in a written statement to MSPs ahead of a hearing on public service reform by Holyrood’s local government committee tomorrow.

He said: “In Australia, for example, there is a productivity commission at arm’s length from government. It is a standing commission with the powers to undertake independent reviews commissioned by the government.

“A Scottish commission on resources and performance could be established at little or no extra cost by bringing together existing resources and expertise. The commission would be accountable to parliament and would report in public to parliament.”

Mr Black, who was Scotland’s Auditor General until summer 2012, went on to say the creation of a new spending watchdog made up of auditors and economists would help improve public confidence in services.

He said: “The very existence of a commission would be a spur to change. If public bodies and partnerships knew they were soon to come under the spotlight of the commission, they would be incentivised to improve their productivity and cost information.”

 

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