Dispute within police body indication of '˜poor governance'

Andrew Flanagan was the centre of a high-profile spat in the SPA. Picture: Andrew Cowan
Andrew Flanagan was the centre of a high-profile spat in the SPA. Picture: Andrew Cowan

A public row between the chairman of the Scottish Police Authority and a former board member is indicative of the organisation’s poor governance, according to the Auditor General.

Caroline Gardner said a high-profile spat between Andrew Flanagan and Moi Ali underlined the problems at the heart of the body which manages the £1 billion police budget.

Moi Ali quit the SPA amid claims she had been silenced after speaking out against a decision to hold committee meetings in private.

Earlier this month she claimed Mr Flanagan had 
misled MSPs when he said 
she had not forewarned him about her intention to publicly criticise the move.

Appearing in front of Holyrood’s justice sub committee on policing yesterday, Ms Gardner was asked if she had concerns about the openness and transparency of the SPA.

She said: “It’s clear from matters that have been in the public domain that there are some tensions among board members about issues of openness and transparency about how the board conducts its business and the way those differences have been resolved or not.

“That’s clearly not a good position for the board to be in, given the importance of the public services it oversees and the scale of the budget it manages. They are an indication, the tensions, that good governance is not happening at the moment in that area.”

Appearing before MSPs earlier this month, Mr Flanagan said: “If we’re going to conduct ourselves in public, the board members must be clear about their intentions and communicate their positions ahead of time.

“In this case, the board member did not and that’s what I took issue with. Dissent is OK but you have to be clear about your intentions.”

Asked yesterday if she thought the organisation had a wariness about transparency due to adverse publicity, Ms Gardner said: “My sense is there’s probably still an element of that. I don’t think it would be particularly surprising given the history of the last four years, it will take people a while to come to a settled way of working and a settled shared understanding of what level of openness and transparency is required.”