Greater government financial transparency needed

The 2021/22 audit of the Scottish Government Consolidated Accounts

The Scottish Government spent £49.2 billion against a budget of £51.2 billion in 2021/22.

But with significant pressures on public finances, auditors have called for more transparency around government spending.

Their recommendations include:

  • fully costing spending commitments, and reporting them clearly in budgets
  • greater transparency over capital borrowing plans and how they apply to projects
  • more transparency over how reserves are used to help manage cost pressures
  • and increasing transparency within the accounts around the balances held within the Scotland Reserve.

Auditors also want to see the Scottish Government further develop its guidelines for investing in private companies. For example, more could be done to strengthen financial control over its interventions and identifying benefits to the public.

Overarching all these recommendations is the ongoing need for the Scottish Government to fulfil its commitment to producing a consolidated account for the whole of the public sector to improve accountability and transparency.

Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland, said:

The Scottish Government has strengthened its focus on longer-term financial planning, but there is still more it can do to ensure there is much greater transparency around its spending.

The consolidated accounts as they stand are a critical component of the Scottish Government’s accountability to the Parliament and the Scottish people, especially at a time of such extraordinary pressures on the public finances.

But they do not tell us the full picture. The need for a single public sector account that provides a comprehensive and transparent assessment of the state of Scotland’s public finances has never been greater.