MSPs criticise ‘continual under-performance’ at police watchdog

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A Holyrood committee has hit out at the “continual under-performance” of board members in Scotland’s police watchdog.

Members of the Public Audit Committee said “previous unacceptable practices” at the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) must not be “quietly forgotten”, as they called on the new chair of the organisation to answer several key questions.

Committee convener Jenny Marra has written to Susan Deacon, who replaced Andrew Flanagan as chair of the SPA in December 2017.

The committee wants to know if the SPA will try to reclaim any of the £67,000 relocation expenses paid to Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick after Audity General for Scotland Caroline Gardner said these did “not represent a good use of public money”.

In addition MSPs are asking if the SPA will review previous decision making by its former chief executive John Foley.

Ms Marra stated “The Audit Committee still has a number of concerns for the SPA to address on its continual under-performance.

“It is not in the public interest for the board’s previous unacceptable practices to be quietly forgotten. Poor performance must be addressed. Only then will we begin to have confidence that all SPA board members are carrying out their roles as effectively as they should be.”

In a letter to Ms Deacon the Audit Committee convener said the “poor performance of the former chair and chief executive of the SPA has been well discussed” by MSPs and others.

Ms Marra told the new SPA chair: “You have already explained how you intend to improve the SPA and its decision-making processes going forward.

“However, we are obliged to highlight our strongly-held concerns about the performance of those board members who have been in post throughout a period of continual under-performance and who did not challenge the previous incumbents as effectively as they should have done.

“Quite simply, we do not have confidence in their ability to perform their role adequately and ask you to reflect on our concerns when you carry out performance appraisals of board members.”

And in a letter to SPA vice chair Nicola Marchant, Ms Marra said the “board’s functioning remains substandard”.

Mr Flanagan stepped down as the chair of the SPA after concerns were raised about governance and transparency, while HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) has also highlighted “dysfunction” at the top of the organisation.

And in a report last December the Auditor General criticised “unacceptable” examples of poor governance and use of public money at the organisation.

A spokesman for the SPA said: “The SPA can confirm that correspondence from the Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee has been received. A response will be sent to the committee in due course.”