Audit Scotland (Howat Review)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:40 am on 7th December 2006.

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. Derek Brownlee (South of Scotland) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive what information Audit Scotland has been provided with in respect of the findings of the Howat review. (S2O-11343)

Photo of Derek Brownlee Derek Brownlee Conservative

That is a surprise. The Howat review was given the task of, among other things, identifying the programmes that do not match with the partnership agreement priorities or are not performing well. Mr McCabe refused to list what those programmes are in his written answer to me, which stated:

"All programmes are open to audit by Audit Scotland and scrutiny by the Committees of this Parliament, where issues about performance can be explored fully."—[Official Report, Written Answers, 17 November 2006; S2W-29674.]

Given that neither the committees of the Parliament nor Audit Scotland have been allowed to see any of the Howat report's findings, can the minister tell Parliament today how many programmes did not perform well and which they were?

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

I will be delighted to tell Parliament the exact contents of the report when we publish it at the appropriate time. We have already explained that we are absolutely committed to publishing the report. It will be published along with other relevant data at the time of the spending review in 2007. That is the appropriate time for doing that.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Without disclosing what seems to be the most precious document the Scottish Executive has ever received, can the minister indicate whether the Howat review believed that any Scottish Executive programmes are, in principle, not performing as effectively as they should and are therefore worthy of being subject to a change in the financial arrangements that the Executive makes for them?

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

Mr Swinney is wrong in his description of the document. His description emanates from the fact that the Scottish National Party and other parties in the chamber have little with which to concern themselves. They are desperate to find a hook on which to hang their criticisms of the Executive. They criticise us for a brave decision to ask individuals from outwith the Government to examine the programmes of expenditure and to give their views on possible expenditure profiles. That is exactly what we have done and no one forced us to do that. [Interruption.]

Presiding Officer, I am trying to answer the question, but I would appreciate a bit of help in getting the shouting behind me to stop.

The Scottish Executive has done that without being forced by anyone. We have engaged in a process that few other Governments have engaged in and been willing to hear the views of external contributors. At the appropriate time, we will publish that information.

Photo of Mark Ballard Mark Ballard Green

This Parliament was set up with a commitment to power sharing and transparency in its budget process. How can the minister reconcile that with withholding information from Audit Scotland and from parliamentary committees until after the decisions have been taken?

Photo of Tom McCabe Tom McCabe Labour

I have already explained the position, which we could go over time and again. I repeat that we are absolutely committed to publishing the information and we will do so at the appropriate time.