A major summit of accounting powers will be called in the next monthved. to tackle claims that financial controls at the proposed Scottish Parliament are inadequate.
The National Audit Office, the Public Accounts Committee, the Scots Audit Commission and even the Scots ICA look likely to be represented on a new committee which will be asked to come up with rigorous accounting arrangements for the Parliament.
As Accountancy Age went to press, Henry McLeish, the minister for devolution, was preparing to announce the creation of a steering group which will, in turn, create the new investigative accounts committee.
McLeish promised that the committee would come up with ‘rigorous and effective controls, ensuring value-for-money’ for the taxpayer. He said he hoped the controls would be even better than those in Westminster.
McLeish was pressured to act after David Davis MP, the PAC chairman, launched a stinging attack on the current accounting arrangements drafted in the Devolution Bill.
On Monday, Davis told MPs the House of Commons would not be able to scrutinise public spending in Scotland unless the bill was amended. He pointed out the UK Parliament would be expected to give a huge grant to the Scottish parliament – more than is raised by Scottish taxes – without having seen spending proposals or outcomes.
‘The UK taxpayer has a right to expect his representatives to scrutinise expenditure before approving the grant,’ said Davis. ‘Proper scrutiny is only possible if we maintain the right the Devolution Bill seeks to remove.’
Davis called for six amendments to the bill. They include:
– the requirement for the UK Parliament to see detailed expenditure plans of the Scottish Parliament before approving their grant;
– greater clarity on accounting arrangements, including an explanation of the meaning of ‘proper accounts’, the phrase used currently in the bill;
– continued access for the Comptroller and Auditor General to enable him to report to the House of Commons on the adequacy of accountability arrangements in Scotland.
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