3. Accountability Report
This section reports who the Members and Accountable Officer are for SCoSS’s governance framework and the Accountable Officer’s responsibilities. SCoSS’s governance, audit functions and risk management arrangements are discussed in the Performance Report and further expanded in the Framework Document.
The Chair and Members
The Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 provides that there shall be a Chair and at least two but no more than four other members. The Chair and Members have been appointed to SCoSS by the Scottish Ministers in line with the Code of Practice for Ministerial Public Appointments in Scotland. As of 31 March 2022 there were four Commissioners: Dr Sally Witcher (Chair), Sharon McIntyre, Judith Paterson and Mark Simpson. Both Dr Sally Witcher and Sharon McIntyre resigned from the SCoSS Board in September 2022. A new member, Marilyn Howard, was appointed to the Board in September 2022 on a temporary basis until April 2023 and work is currently underway to increase the Board to five members.
Under Schedule 1, Chapter 4 of the Social Security Act (Scotland) 2018, the Scottish Ministers have directed SCoSS to prepare for each financial year a statement of accounts in the form and on the basis set out in the Accounts Direction. The accounts are prepared on an accruals basis, and must give a true and fair view in accordance with the financial reporting framework, and for such internal control as the Accountable Officer determines is necessary to enable the preparation of financial statements that are free from material misstatement, whether due to fraud or error.
In preparing the accounts, the Accountable Officer is required to comply with the requirements of the Government Financial Reporting Manual and in particular to:
- observe the accounts direction issued by the Scottish Ministers, including the relevant accounting and disclosure requirements, and apply suitable accounting policies on a consistent basis
- make judgments and estimates on a reasonable basis
- state whether applicable accounting standards as set out in the Government Financial Reporting Manual have been followed, and disclose and explain any material departures in the financial statements
- prepare the financial statements on a ‘going concern’ basis
- confirm that the Annual Report and Accounts as a whole is fair, balanced and understandable and take personal responsibility for the Annual Report and Accounts and the judgements required for determining that it is fair, balanced and understandable.
The Permanent Secretary of the Scottish Government, as Principal Accountable Officer for the Scottish Administration, designated that Ian Davidson is the Accountable Officer for the Commission.
The responsibilities of an Accountable Officer, including responsibility for the propriety and regularity of the public finances for which the Accountable Officer is answerable, for keeping proper records and for safeguarding the Commission’s assets, are set out in the Scottish Government Memorandum to Accountable Officers of Other Public Bodies and published within the Scottish Public Finance Manual.
- As Accountable Officer, I have taken all the steps that I ought to have taken to make myself aware of any relevant audit information and to establish that the Commission’s auditors were aware of that information.
- So far as I am aware, there is no relevant audit information of which the auditors are unaware.
- I confirm that the annual report and accounts as a whole is fair, balanced and understandable and that I take personal responsibility for the annual report and accounts and the judgments required for determining that it is fair, balanced and understandable.
As Accountable Officer, I have responsibility for maintaining a sound system of corporate governance and internal control that supports the achievement of SCoSS’s policies, aims and objectives, set by Scottish Ministers, whilst safeguarding the public funds and assets for which I am personally responsible, in accordance with the responsibilities set out in the “Accountable Officer’s Memorandum”.
In the discharge of my personal responsibilities I ensure organisational compliance with the Scottish Public Finance Manual (SPFM). The SPFM is issued by the Scottish Ministers to provide guidance to The Scottish Government and other relevant bodies on the proper handling and reporting of public funds. It sets out the relevant statutory, parliamentary, and administrative requirements, emphasises the need for economy, efficiency, and effectiveness, and promotes good practice and high standards of propriety.
The Framework Document, drawn up by Scottish Government, sets out the broad framework within which SCoSS has agreed to operate. It does not convey any legal powers or responsibilities. The relationship between the SCoSS Board and Scottish Ministers and the SCoSS Board and the Secretariat is outlined in Section 2.1 of this report entitled ‘SCoSS’s Purpose and Structure’.
The SCoSS Board contains no committees or sub-committees, however we are introducing four quarterly Audit Sub-Committees, the first of which will sign-off the 2021-22 Annual Report and Accounts. Since SCoSS’s establishment, no written authorities have been provided to the Accountable Officer; there have been no lapses of data security; and no significant risk-related matters have arisen.
This governance statement relates to SCoSS’s governance system as it applied during 2021-22 and up to the date of approval of the annual report and accounts. Scottish Government Internal Audit carry out a programme of reviews across the range of Scottish Government corporate systems which are used by SCoSS. The appointment of the audit adviser will also help SCoSS to review and update its financial management arrangements.
The operation of the governing Board is referred to at SCoSS purpose and structure.
The main features that support regular monitoring, review and assurance are detailed in the Performance Report.
A detailed assessment of SCoSS’s risk management arrangements is referred to at Risks facing SCoSS.
An assessment of corporate governance arrangements is detailed in SCoSS’s Strategies.
A full review of SCoSS’s arrangements for corporate governance and risk management was not undertaken in 2021-22. Since the appointment of an Audit Adviser in April 2022, a full review is planned to be undertaken.
The recommendations from the 2020-21 audit are noted below with corresponding action taken (open 2019-20 recommendation also noted however the majority of which are covered within 2020-21 recommendations);
2020-21 Recommendation 1 – SCoSS should review their year-end processes and accounts preparation timetable. Working papers should be provided alongside unaudited accounts, together with documentation supporting all disclosures. Audit queries should be addressed timeously.
Action taken: SG increased the secretariat complement to support SCoSS including year-end processes and accounts preparation timetable. Additionally a virtual finance group met regularly to establish an audit plan to deliver 2021-22 audit requirements as per the agreed timetable. Resource levels have declined in recent months however SG has measures in place to increase the capability within secretariat to adequately deliver future audit requirements. Additionally, SG has since appointed (April 22) an independent Audit Adviser who will contribute to the efficient completion of the annual report and accounts.
2020-21 Recommendation 2 – Additional checks should be routinely performed to ensure that correct amounts are paid to members. Members fees should be accounted for on an accruals basis.
Action taken: Secretariat have enhanced the desk instructions for members fees payments which sets out a 2 stage process of processing and supervisory checks on a monthly basis with fees accounted for on an accrual basis.
2020-21 Recommendations 3 – In the absence of an audit committee, SCoSS should review their governance arrangements to ensure that functions which are ordinarily performed by an audit committee are adequately addressed. (Same recommendation as previous year.)
Action taken: Audit adviser appointed by SG April 2022 – this appointment strengthens the SCoSS audit and risk functions and delivery. An Audit Sub-Committee has been established.
Below is the 2019-20 rolling audit recommendations which continue to be addressed as part of SCoSS’s audit reporting;
- SCoSS should review their year-end processes and accounts preparation timetable for 2020/21 to ensure working papers are provided alongside draft accounts and the accounts are as complete as they can be.
- As SCoSS continue to develop their governance arrangements, it is important that functions which are ordinarily performed by an audit committee are adequately addressed.
- SCoSS should consider supplementing standing orders to ensure their completeness. This action remains live and will be addressed in the year ahead.
The SCoSS board met a total of eleven times during the reporting period with the attendance rate of members detailed below.
|Member||Board meetings attended|
|Dr Sally Witcher||11|
|Dr Mark Simpson||11|
All secretariat staff working for SCoSS are civil servants employed by the Scottish Government and bound by the Civil Service Code and other civil service requirements as to their conduct, impartiality and confidentiality. Changes to pay and conditions will be made in line with wider Scottish Government arrangements. SCoSS’s budget should be reviewed to reflect any changes to staff remuneration.
Members of SCoSS, including the Chair, are non-executive appointments made by the Scottish Ministers in line with the Code of Practice for Ministerial Public Appointments in Scotland. The role of Members is to contribute their expertise to the development of high quality reports, provide direction, support and guidance to ensure the body delivers and is committed to delivering its functions effectively and efficiently and in accordance with the aims, policies and priorities identified within the Act.
The Chair and Members have been appointed to SCoSS through a public appointment round regulated and monitored by the Ethical Standards Commissioner. As such, their pay and conditions are the responsibility of the Public Appointments branch of the People Directorate within the Scottish Government.
Remuneration (daily fees), allowances and expenses paid to the Chair and Members must comply with the SG Pay Policy for Senior Appointments and any specific guidance on such matters issued by the Scottish Ministers.
It was necessary to seek Ministerial agreement to extend the maximum number of paid days for the Chair and Board members due to the quantity of work referred to SCoSS and the lack of secretariat capacity to support the Board with delivery.
The analysis of board members costs, staff numbers and costs and accountable officer costs disclosed below and the fair pay disclosure form the audited part of the remuneration and staff report.
|Board Member||31 March 2022 £'000||31 March 2021 £'000|
|Sharon McIntyre||5 - 10||5 – 10|
|Judith Paterson||10 - 15||5 – 10|
|Mark Simpson||5 - 10||0 – 5|
|Dr Sally Witcher (Chair)||25 - 30||10 - 15|
From 27 March 2021, Ian Davidson became the Deputy Director, Social Security Policy and the Accountable Officer for SCoSS. He is a full-time employee of the Scottish Government and his salary was paid directly from the Scottish Government budget. SCoSS did not contribute to his pay, benefits or pension. He also received no bonuses or benefits in kind.
|Staff member||31 March 2022 Basic Pay Range £'000||31 March 2022 Bonus Payments £'000||31 March 2022 Benefits in Kind £'000|
|Staff member||31 March 2021 Basic Pay Range £'000||31 March 2021 Bonus Payments £'000||31 March 2021 Benefits in Kind £'000|
The staff report contains information relating to staff numbers and costs.
Number of senior civil service staff
As at 31 March 2022, SCoSS did not employ any Senior Civil Servants.
As noted above (Section 3.2) the SCoSS Secretariat are all civil servants, employed by the Scottish Government and on Scottish Government Pay, Terms & Conditions.
|FTE||31 March 2022||31 March 2021|
Staff costs for SCoSS are set out below.
|Staff costs||2021-22 £||2020-21 £|
|Wages & Salaries||73,171||96,416|
|Social Security Costs||11,445||10,048|
|Other Pension Costs||20,749||26,178|
|SCoSS Board Member Fees||59,811||27,431|
|Interim Manager Costs||44,453||0|
|Staff Leave Adjustment||14,927||(470)|
Wages and salaries include gross salaries, non-consolidated payments, overtime and any other allowance that is subject to UK taxation.
Fair Pay Disclosure
The FReM requires bodies to disclose the ratio of the mid-point of the highest paid director’s remuneration to the median remuneration of the body’s staff. The FReM also requires bodies to disclose the equivalent ratio for the staff member in the lower and upper quartile. In addition, the FReM also requires disclosure of the percentage change from the previous year for salary and allowances, performance pay and bonuses in respect of the highest paid director and the employees of the body taken as a whole.
SCoSS does not employ any staff or have any Board Members that fulfil the role of a Director or have Directorial responsibilities. In addition, the staff complement within the SCoSS Secretariat varied during the reporting period. The number of staff employed ranged from one member of staff for six months of the reporting period to three members of staff. On that basis, it is not considered to be applicable to make a fair pay disclosure given the organisational structure of SCoSS, the small number of individuals employed within SCoSS and the degree of staff turnover during the reporting period.
Staff Composition & Sickness Absence
Due to the low number of staff working in SCoSS, this data cannot be disclosed without risk of identifying individual members of staff and breaching data security. This has therefore been omitted from the report.
Equal opportunities and diversity
The Social Security Policy Division works in conjunction with SCoSS to ensure that HR policies, practices and systems comply with employment and equality legislation, and standards expected of public sector employers. All SCoSS’s permanent staff, as Scottish Government employees, are covered by Scottish Government policies including its Delivering Diversity and Equality policy. Further to this, SCoSS also relies on Scottish Government disability policies, which covers areas such as how we fill posts, monitoring and discussing performance and providing reasonable adjustments. This also includes continuing to implement the recommendations set out in the Scottish Government publication, “Recruitment and Retention Plan for Disabled People; 2019”
The Scottish Government is also committed to providing all staff, including the SCoSS Secretariat, with opportunities for learning to help staff understand what valuing diversity means in practice, and how to take action to build an inclusive workplace culture.
The Chair and Board Members appointees also adhere to the Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies in Scotland in which Diversity and Equality remains a core principle and are expected to abide by the Civil Service Code.
They also have a responsibility to make sure that they are familiar with, and that their actions comply with, the provisions contained within the agreed Code of Conduct for Board Members which was published in February 2020. A revised Code of Conduct was issued for Board approval in January 2022, which was subsequently approved in June 2022.
Accountable Officer (Deputy Director, Social Security Policy)