Police report finds ‘significant weaknesses’ in finances

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An internal audit of the Scottish Police Authority has found “significant weaknesses” in the organisation’s financial controls.

A report by accountancy firm Scott-Moncrieff said there were a series of failings in the SPA’s internal mechanisms during 2016/17.

The audit highlighted major concerns over payroll and said the number of transformation projects within the organisation had put pressure of staff when it came to completing day-to-day tasks.

Earlier this year Auditor General Caroline Gardner said there was “weak financial leadership” in both Police Scotland and the SPA, the organisation which manages the £1.1 billion policing budget.

However, the Scott-Moncrieff report said both the SPA and Police Scotland were now “fully aware” of the challenges they face, with developed plans in place to tackle them.

The report said: “In our opinion, SPA had significant weaknesses in its framework of internal controls in place during the 2016/17 financial year.

“As a result, the internal control environment operated by SPA during 2016/17 cannot be fully relied upon to provide an appropriate level of assurance regarding the effective and efficient achievement of objectives and the management of key risks.”

The accountancy firm identified a total of 137 “actions” in its audit report, including major concerns over the Glasgow payroll system. In March, MSPs were told Police Scotland is continuing to use “17 or 18” different payroll systems almost four years on from the creation of the single force.

The Scott-Moncrieff report warned the volume of transformation work was putting pressure on staff completing “day-to-day activities and project work”, but it said there had been temporary recruitment to address the problem.

It concluded: “Our audit work has importantly confirmed that the management of both SPA and Police Scotland are fully aware of these challenges, have well-developed plans in place to respond effectively to them, and are committed to taking the action necessary to address improvement opportunities identified through the internal audit work programme. We have seen evidence through our follow-up of previous internal audit management actions that, while still not fully complete, there has been significant management action during the course of 2016/17 to address many of the areas of control weakness previously identified, with a focus on transformation activities.”

A spokesman for the SPA said: “We have been working with Police Scotland on a programme of transformational activity in terms of financial controls which has already seen a number of actions completed and many more progressing. The whole purpose of internal audit is to identify the actions required to improve the effectiveness of internal control systems. SPA has made this a key part of its improvement agenda in policing, and is supported in that by the professional input of Scott-Moncrieff, one of Scotland’s leading professional advisory firms in this area.”