The Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland continue to suffer from weak financial leadership and considerable budget pressures, the Auditor General has reported today.
This is the third consecutive year that Caroline Gardner, the Auditor General for Scotland, has drawn the Scottish Parliament's attention to substantial issues found during the annual audit of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA).
Inaccurate records and poor financial management led to another challenging annual audit and significant corrections were needed to the SPA's accounts. These issues led to the auditor modifying her opinion on the accounts for a third consecutive year.
In 2015/16, the SPA managed total spending of £1.1 billion. While the accounts feature more detail on how reform funding from the Scottish Government has been used, the SPA needs to be more open about how it allocates funding to Police Scotland and what this is expected to achieve.
The SPA prepared an initial long-term financial strategy in March 2016, following the Auditor General's recommendation that it do so in 2013. This must be continually updated to reflect new information, such as the Policing 2026 Programme currently under development.
Updating the strategy is essential given the scale of the financial challenge facing the SPA and Police Scotland. Audit Scotland estimates that they could face a cumulative funding gap of almost £190 million by 2020/21. These projections include the Scottish Government's commitment to maintain a real terms increase in the policing budget for the duration of the current parliamentary session.
Caroline Gardner said:
"The Scottish Police Authority and Police Scotland are among the largest and most important public bodies in the country. It's therefore unacceptable that I've had to report to the Parliament on weak financial leadership and management in all three years of their existence.
"Substantial improvement is required now to deliver the strong financial leadership, long-term planning and robust scrutiny that will be needed if policing in Scotland is to withstand the major challenges ahead."
The Auditor General will report again on the progress of the SPA and Police Scotland in 2017.