17 December 2004
The Scottish Executive has been criticised by an influential committee of MSPs for providing 'misleading' information when it claimed that its efficient government plan would save £1.7bn over the next three years.
In a report published this week, the Scottish Parliament's finance committee argues that the Executive's approach to efficiency savings has evolved in a 'disjointed way' and says that there was a lack of transparency in the figures reported. It suggests that the Executive has been guilty of triple counting some of the figures.
The findings will put further pressure on Finance Minister Tom McCabe, who insisted there had been no triple counting when he recently gave evidence to the committee.
In its report, the committee says the Executive, in its efficiency review, quoted recurrent annual savings of £405m in 2005/06, rising to £582m in 2006/07 and to £745m in 2007/08.
These were added up to show 'total aggregate cash savings' of £1.7bn. 'The aggregation of cash releasing savings over three years and presentation of them as a percentage of a budget in one year is misleading,' the report says.
According to the committee, savings packages in each year were not identified on an annual basis. The figures suggested that, for health, for example, a savings option totalling £166m had been counted three times to deliver the health total aggregate cash savings of £498m.
An executive spokesman insisted there was no triple counting. 'If a saving is made in year one, those savings will still be made in future years, and it is entirely appropriate they should be included in a cumulative total,' he claimed.