Governance and accountability
SCoSS was established by section 21 of the Act as a body corporate and does not carry out its functions on behalf of the Crown. The body’s functions are defined in section 22 of the Act. Schedule 1 of the Act sets out the parameters of the body’s legal status, powers, procedures, finance and membership.
The Scottish Ministers must not direct SCoSS in any way and are not responsible for day to day operational matters. However, Scottish Ministers are ultimately accountable to the Scottish Parliament for the activities of SCoSS and its use of resources.
Scottish Ministers’ responsibilities include:
- agreeing SCoSS’s strategic aims and objectives as part of its business plan;
- providing SCoSS with such staff and resources as required to carry out its functions;
- carrying out responsibilities specified in the Act, such as appointments to SCoSS’s Board and approving the terms and conditions of the Chair and members of SCoSS, and;
- other matters such as approving the remuneration of the Chair and Board Members of SCoSS in line with SG Pay Policy and laying accounts (together with the annual report) before the Parliament.
The Chair is accountable to the Scottish Ministers and, in common with any individual with responsibility for devolved functions, may also be held to account by the Scottish Parliament. Communications between SCoSS and the Scottish Ministers should normally be through the Chair. The Chair is responsible for ensuring that SCoSS’s policies and actions support the Scottish Ministers’ wider strategic policies and that its affairs are conducted with probity.
In leading SCoSS, the Chair is expected to ensure:
- the body delivers its principal aims as set out in the Act and that the Board is working effectively;
- members are fully briefed on terms of appointment, duties, rights and responsibilities;
- work with the rest of the Board and the Accountable Officer to oversee effective management of SCoSS’s budget;
- there is a code of conduct for Members in place, approved by Scottish Ministers;
- the performances of individual Board members is assessed on a continuous basis and formal appraisals undertaken annually;
- the work of SCoSS is subject to regular self-assessment, that SCoSS is working effectively with clear vision and by working closely with Members to make sure its objectives are delivered successfully;
- in discussion with Members, SCoSS’s work plan is set and tasks are allocated to the secretariat and Members;
- SCoSS plays a key role in advising Scottish Ministers on social security legislative proposals and informing draft regulations that the SG lays before Parliament, and;
- succession planning takes place to ensure that SCoSS is diverse and effective, and the Scottish Ministers are advised of SCoSS’s needs as and when vacancies arise.
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 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. Individual Members, under the leadership of the Chair, have the following responsibilities, including, but not limited to:
- taking forward the strategic aims and objectives for SCoSS as agreed with the Scottish Ministers;
- bringing their unique experience, perspective and knowledge to SCoSS discussions;
- representing the agreed views of SCoSSin public forums where appropriate, and;
- complying at all times with the agreed behaviours in the Code of Conduct and within the rules relating to the use of public funds and conflict of interest.
Further guidance on how Members should discharge their duties is provided in appointment letters and in On Board – A Guide for Members of Statutory Boards.
The Principal Accountable Officer for the Scottish Administration will designate the Deputy Director of Social Security Policy as the Accountable Officer for the SG portfolio budget for SCoSS. The responsibilities of an Accountable Officer are set out in detail in the Memorandum to Accountable Officers for Parts of the Scottish Administration. They are personally answerable to the Scottish Parliament for ensuring that:
- the financial and other management controls applied by the SG are appropriate and sufficient to safeguard public funds and, more generally, that those being applied by SCoSS conform to the requirements both of propriety and of good financial management;
- the key roles and responsibilities which underpin the relationship between the SG and SCoSS are set out in a framework document – and that this document is regularly reviewed as necessary and at least every two to three years;
- effective relationships are in place at Director and Deputy Director level between the SG and SCoSS in accordance with the strategic engagement principles, and;
- there is effective continuous assessment and appraisal of the performance of the Chair of SCoSS, in line with the requirements of the Code of Practice for Ministerial Public Appointments in Scotland.
The Deputy Director for Social Security Policy Division has responsibility for overseeing the relationship between the SG and SCoSS. They will support high performance working and nurture effective working relationships which support the alignment of SCoSS with the Scottish Social Security Charter. They will work closely with SCoSS’s Chair to maintain and develop positive relationships with SCoSS, characterised by openness, trust, respect and mutual support. They will be supported by a sponsor unit in discharging these functions.
Scottish Ministers will provide staff resources to assist SCoSS to undertake its functions. Specific responsibilities of secretariat support staff include;
- dealing with the everyday administrative matters relating to SCoSS and providing day to day support;
- acting as an initial point of contact and ensuring effective relationships with the SG sponsor unit;
- supporting the development of an efficient and effective work programme for SCoSS, including through ongoing engagement with SG officials;
- ensuring SCoSS adheres, where appropriate, to SG policies;
- liaising with stakeholders and across the SG as appropriate and;
- preparing board papers and reports as required.
The SG sponsor unit for SCoSSsits within the Social Security Policy Division. It is the normal point of contact for SCoSS in dealing with the SG. The unit, under the direction of the Deputy Director, is the primary source of advice to the Scottish Ministers on the discharge of their responsibilities in respect of SCoSSand undertakes the responsibilities of the Accountable Officer on their behalf.
Specific responsibilities include:
- discharging sponsorship responsibilities in line with the principles and framework set out in the document Strategic Engagement between the Scottish Government and Scotland’s NDPBs and ensuring that sponsorship is suitably flexible, proportionate and responsive to the needs of the Scottish Ministers and SCoSS;
- ensuring that appointments to SCoSS are made timeously and in accordance with the Code of Practice for Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies in Scotland;
- proportionate monitoring of SCoSS’s activities through an adequate and timely flow of appropriate information, agreed with SCoSS, on performance, budgeting, control and risk management;
- addressing in a timely manner any significant problems arising in SCoSS, alerting the responsible Minister where considered appropriate;
- ensuring that the objectives of SCoSS and the risks to them are properly and appropriately taken into account in the SG’s risk assessment and management systems, and;
- informing SCoSSof relevant SG policy in a timely manner.
Social Security Policy Division will hold SCoSS’s budget and has responsibility for the recruitment and retention of SCoSS’s secretariat. The Social Security Policy Division will work in conjunction with the SCoSS secretariat to ensure that:
- HR policies, practices and systems comply with employment and equality legislation, and standards expected of public sector employers;
- the level and structure of the secretariat, including grading and staff numbers, are appropriate to its functions and the requirements of economy, efficiency and effectiveness (subject to the SG Pay Policy for Staff Pay Remits);
- the performance of the secretariat at all levels is satisfactorily appraised and SCoSS’s performance measurement systems are reviewed from time to time;
- the secretariat are encouraged to acquire the appropriate professional, management and other expertise necessary to achieve SCoSS’s objectives;
- proper consultation with secretariat takes place on key issues affecting them;
- adequate grievance and disciplinary procedures are in place, and;
- effective whistle-blowing policy and procedures consistent with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 are in place;
The Accountable Officer will work with SCoSS to:
- establish and maintain arrangements for internal audit in accordance with the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (PSIAS) and the Internal Audit section of the SPFM;
- maintain robust records of budget spend in order to facilitate completion of the end of year accounts;
- provide SG with routine access to details of expenditure made by SCoSS in line with the budget allocated, and;
- provide necessary information, as required, to SG or Audit Scotland to facilitate any internal or external audits.
These requirements are in accordance with the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards and the Internal Audit Section of the SPFM.
SCoSS should approach the sponsor unit in the first instance where a need for advice is identified. The Scottish Government Legal Department (SGLD) will not provide legal advice directly to SCoSS. Where the sponsor unit is not able to provide sufficient guidance, or the advice sought conflicts with the needs of Scottish Ministers, SCoSS will be required to seek its own independent advice. SGLD may be able to assist in obtaining that advice through the legal services framework.