Scottish Police Authority guilty of wasting taxpayers’ money, says watchdog

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A financial watchdog has criticised “unacceptable” examples of poor governance and use of public money at the Scottish Police Authority (SPA).

The Auditor General highlighted a number of questionable decisions taken by former SPA chief executive John Foley, who stood down from the police body last month.

Caroline Gardner singled out the decision to appoint three temporary senior staff at a cost of more than £344,000 as one that “did not demonstrate value for money in the use of public funds”.

She found the process for appointing an interim chief financial officer at the SPA “was inconsistent with procurement procedures”.

The auditor’s report also criticised the decision by Mr Foley to authorise two relocation expenses payments totalling £67,000 for a deputy chief constable as well as paying the same officer’s £53,000 personal tax liability for 2016/17.

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“Relocation payments of this magnitude do not represent a good use of public money”, the report said, adding they were not properly disclosed in the SPA’s annual report and accounts.

Ms Gardner concluded there were “insufficient efforts to ensure that the remuneration report in the annual report and accounts were free from error and omission”.

The report said progress had been made on the financial management of the SPA and Police Scotland, but warned that realising the force’s Policing 2026 strategy over the next eight years would be “immensely challenging”.

The SPA started 2017/18 with a forecast deficit of £47.2 million and currently expects deficits of £35.6m in 2018/19 and £15.9m in 2019/20.

Ms Gardner said: “Our audit identified a number of instances of poor governance and poor use of public money. This is unacceptable.

“An immediate priority for the new chair and interim chief officer must be ensuring that the organisation operates more effectively and transparently so that such occurrences are not repeated in the future.

“While the progress in financial management of the SPA and Police Scotland is welcome, detailed strategies are needed to ensure the two organisations are able to achieve long-term financial sustainability and realise the vision outlined in Policing 2026.”

Kenneth Hogg was seconded from the Scottish Government to take on the role as SPA chief executive following Mr Foley’s departure.

He had also had come under pressure after HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) highlighted ‘’dysfunction’’ at the top of the organisation.

Former SPA chair Andrew Flanagan also stepped down from his role after concerns were raised about governance and transparency, and has been replaced by former Labour health minister Susan Deacon

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