Issues of concern about the bodies we audit
Issues of concern cover a broad range of topics. These can involve aspects such as weak financial management or a breakdown in governance arrangements in a public body that falls under the remit of the Accounts Commission or the Auditor General for Scotland. In general our work covers concerns that have wide implications rather than those that affect one person or a small number of individuals, unless the issue involves significant sums of money. For example we can examine issues that relate to how public bodies use public money and the processes they go through to make decisions.
We have no statutory duty to respond to issues of concern. However, we have found that issues of concern raised are often relevant to our work and could help by:
- providing information that can help local auditors plan and target their audit work
- identifying issues of concern that require further examination
- providing evidence for us as part of a specific audit review.
If you think your issue of concern fits within this wider context you can ask us to consider acting on it. We always recommend that you raise your issue of concern with the public body concerned in the first instance. Contacting the public body directly is the best way to get the required information and answer any specific issues of concern that you may have.
How can you raise an issue of concern with us?
Alternatively, you can ask for a form by emailing us at email@example.com, or by writing to us at:
The correspondence team, Audit Scotland, 4th Floor, 102 West Port, Edinburgh, EH3 9DN
If you have any form of impairment or disability which may require reasonable adjustments let us know what those adjustments are. A reasonable adjustment may mean, for example, providing information in large font or in audio form to help someone with a visual impairment.
If you need help to complete the form, you can call us on 0131 625 1500. One of our employees will take the details for you or arrange for a member of our correspondence team to call you back.
Our confidentiality policy for dealing with issues of concern
Confidentiality is important and we will always try to maintain your anonymity if at all possible, however we do share the information you give us with the local auditors. The local auditor will not disclose your personal information or details to the public body, unless you have given your permission. However you should be aware that, by raising certain issues of concern with public bodies, the public body may be able to deduce your identity. If we need to disclose personal information to the public body concerned so we can review and respond to your issue of concern, we will write to ask you for your written permission in advance.
When would we act on an issue of concern?
Our remit is to focus on issues of concern that have wide implications:
- Widespread breakdown in financial management
for example, where you have a concern that a public body may not be able to meet its future financial commitments
- Major failures in how a public body provides a service
for example, where a council has failed to maintain assets such as transport links or school buildings
- Poor value for money from inefficient governance arrangements
for example, where a public body has entered into a contract and the other party fails to meet its commitment
- Unlawful spending
for example, if a public body did not have a power or duty to spend public money in a particular area
Although we may act on an issue of concern such as those identified above, our statutory powers do not allow us to stop or reverse decisions made by a public body.
When would we not act on an issue of concern?
We cannot act on an issue of concern that does not fit within our role or remit. For example:
We have no powers to reverse, change or stop decisions made by a public body. This means:
- we cannot overturn a planning decision made by a council, even if you personally disagree with the outcome
- we cannot change a council’s decision on how much to spend on a particular service or area.
We cannot seek compensation for you or act as an arbitrator in personal grievances where:
- you have a dispute with your employer
- you feel you have suffered an injustice or hardship because the public body provided a poor or bad service, or failed to provide a service.
We cannot act on complaints that you may have against a public body where:
- you want to complain about a service provided, for example about street lighting or litter. You should contact the public body directly to raise your complaint, then you can contact the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman if you believe it was not dealt with properly
We cannot act on issues that do not involve significant spending. Issues must closely relate to how the body uses public money:
- we need to be able to substantiate evidence, and the sum of money has to be significant, in relation to the body’s overall budget
- we will not act on an issue of concern that another public body or regulator is already considering, or that concerns a public body we do not audit.
- if the issue of concern involves fraud and is already being dealt with by the police, or if a review or investigation of an issue is ongoing, we cannot get involved
- we will not normally act on an issue of concern that took place one year or more before you contacted us.
We do not re-open issues of concern that have been raised or answered before:
- if we have acted on an issue of concern and issued a final response or a final report in line with the agreed scope, we would not do any further work
- or if your correspondence comes under our unacceptable actions policy
What happens after you raise your issue of concern with us?
You will receive an acknowledgement within five working days to confirm that we have received your issue of concern.
We will assess your issue of concern to determine whether or not we are best placed to help. In doing this, we will take into account:
- the statutory powers we have to review the issue of concern
- how relevant it is to our role and remit
In making our assessment we apply our technical knowledge and professional judgement and consider the following questions:
- Do we have the statutory powers to review the issue of concern you have brought to us?
- Does the issue of concern fall within our remit or should we redirect you to a more appropriate body?
- What sums of money are involved? Are these significant?
- Have we previously carried out any audit work about the issue of concern? If so, what did this tell us?
- How does the issue fit with our approved priorities and work programme?
- What evidence is there to support or substantiate the issue of concern you have raised?
- Is it in the wider public interest to review the issue of concern and what are the potential benefits to the public?
- What would be the costs, for example in staff time and benefits of examining the issue of concern?
If you raise several issues we will consider each one against these criteria.
We also aim to provide a final response within 30 working days.
If we are able to act in response to an issue of concern you raise, our response will set out in general terms what action we plan to take. We may need to complete a focussed piece of work for some issues of concern that people raise with us. In cases like these, where the work will take us longer than 30 working days, we will write to tell you what we plan to do and provide updates of our progress on our website.
If we are not the right people to help you we will aim to let you know quickly and, if possible, redirect you to another body or regulator.