THE need for a financial strategy within Police Scotland is “now critical” as government auditors flag up a potential £85 million black hole in its accounts by 2018-19.
This delayed the audit of the Scottish Police Authority’s (SPA) accounts and resulted in substantial corrections being required before completion.
The Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland must collectively provide stronger leadership in strategic and operational financial management.Caroline Gardner
SPA chair Andrew Flanagan has admitted the watchdog must “get our financial house in order” and will do so by appointing a chief financial officer from January for a period of four months and approving a financial strategy up to 2025-26 by the end of March.
In 2014-15, the SPA oversaw total expenditure of about £1.76 billion. Together with Police Scotland, the body is also responsible for assets worth more than £550m.
The Auditor General report states: “While some progress has been made towards creating a long-term financial strategy, it has been slow. This is now critical as Audit Scotland estimates the SPA and Police Scotland could face a potential funding gap of around £85m by 2018-19.”
Caroline Gardner, Auditor General for Scotland, said: “I first reported on the need for a long-term financial strategy in November 2013. What was once important has now become critical, given the scale of the challenges ahead.”
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In response Mr Flanagan added: “Audit Scotland has described the issues identified as exceptional. I agree and the SPA board has taken immediate action to address them.”
Liberal Democrat spokeswoman Alison McInnes MSP said the report raises fundamental questions over SPA financial management given “millions of pounds appears to be unaccounted for.”
John Finnie MSP, for the Scottish Greens, added: “Whether it’s important policing issues like stop and search, armed police, the police spying fiasco or this financial mismanagement, I am increasingly concerned about the role of the SPA as they increasing look like lethargic bystanders.”