Headlines: September 19th, 2006



Members of the Scottish Parliament are proposing a stronger governance framework for commissioners and ombudsman to make them more accountable to MSPs for their spending. The suggestion follows an inquiry by the Parliament’s Finance Committee into Accountability and Governance.

The committee’s report calls, too, for the Scottish Executive to delay setting up five new bodies until work to remove duplication of effort between existing bodies is finished. Des McNulty, the MSP who is Convener of the Finance Committee said its members had responded to widespread concerns over the rising number and cost of Parliamentary commissioners and Executive bodies. Its recommendations would, if they were adopted, help to control costs and improve accountability arrangements, he said.

“We believe that, according to criteria laid out in the report, no more bodies representing a specific interest group should be created as Parliamentary commissioners,” Mr. McNulty said.

The committee is questioning whether Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People should continue to be directly accountable to Parliament or held accountable through Scottish Ministers and it is recommending that the proposed Scottish Commissioner for Human Rights should be integrated with the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman’s Office.

Other recommendations in the committee’s report include a change in the law to give the Parliament’s Corporate Body power over the budgets and office location of commissioners and ombudsmen and a review of the Executive’s classification of existing bodies which, the committee believes, can create barriers to sharing services. Members also suggest an examination of the current status of the Scottish Commission for Public Audit, which scrutinises spending by the Auditor General and Audit Scotland. Finally the committee proposes the amalgamation of bodies with similar roles by the Executive as part of its public sector scrutiny review. The report refers to the Roadworks Commissioner, Scottish Civil Enforcement Commission, Scottish Commissioner for Human Rights, the Legal Complaints Commissioner and the Police Complaints Commissioner.