On 25 June 2020 Audit Scotland (AS) published Covid-19: How public audit in Scotland is responding which updates Covid-19: Impact on public audit in Scotland published on 5 May 2020.
The June AS briefing paper announces a programme of work on Scotland's public sector response to Covid-19. AS states that its evidence-based audits will:
- support accountability and learning on how the government and public bodies have responded to the crisis
- provide transparency and support for parliamentary scrutiny by the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee (and other relevant committees); and
- share good practice and innovation.
AS reports that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of many long-standing public sector challenges, such as good governance, openness and transparency, financial controls and management, and effective long-term planning to deliver better outcomes for individuals and communities.
Current Covid-19 Audit Scotland audits
AS sets out the six current Covid-19 audits on Scotland's public sector response to Covid-19 as follows:
- An early overview of the Scottish Government’s financial response to the pandemic, to be published this summer.
- A paper on fraud risks associated with Covid-19 that public bodies should be alert to. AS plans to publish this in August as a complement to the AS report on the National Fraud Initiative in July.
- The NHS report, to be published in early 2021, will consider the NHS’ response to Covid-19. Topics will include: the financial impact of Covid-19, governance and risk management arrangements, the availability of essential equipment and innovative practices.
- The local government overview report in spring 2021 will report on how Scotland’s 32 councils responded to Covid-19 and how services are changing.
- The digital progress in local government performance audit, due in late 2020, will consider how digital technology has enabled councils to respond to Covid-19, emerging good practices and potential longer-term implications for councils and how they operate.
- The education outcomes audit (currently paused) will be refocused during 2021 to look at the impact on Scotland’s education system.
Future Audit Scotland Covid-19 work programme
AS is now at the early stages of reviewing its future work programme on Scotland's public sector response to Covid-19. Key topics under consideration include:
- The economic and fiscal consequences of Covid-19 for the Scottish economy and public services.
- Collaborative leadership and joint working and how public bodies work together to respond to the pandemic.
- Financial sustainability and delivery of strategic objectives – increased costs and reduced income making it difficult to manage finances.
- Public service adaptation – highlighting evolving good practices.
- The equality impact of Covid-19 on low earners, younger people, women, the ethnic minority community, people with a disability, those living in deprived areas, and lone parents.
- Community engagement – how citizens and communities are being involved in difficult decisions affecting public services.
- Cyber security, digital resilience and data – exposure to cyber-attacks and issues around data management, protection and privacy.
- Governance and accountability (including fraud, error and litigation) – public bodies have made significant changes to their governance arrangements. The design of new government support schemes, and reduced capacity to monitor existing schemes, exposes the public sector to an increased risk of fraud and error. AS will review the effectiveness of those arrangements as part of its core audit work.