Call to scrap Scottish quangos

14 Jul 14
Quangos should be abolished in moves to improve the accountability of Scottish public bodies, the Reform Scotland think-tank has said.

By Richard Johnstone | 14 July 2014

Quangos should be abolished in moves to improve the accountability of Scottish public bodies, the Reform Scotland think-tank has said.

In its latest research briefing on public bodies, Reform Scotland warned that the use of arm’s-length agencies had reduced transparency, with high salaries paid across the sector as expenditure had become ‘largely invisible’.

According to research published today, there are 72 public bodies funded by the Scottish Government to assist in the delivery of services. These include NHS trusts, enterprise agencies and environmental bodies, as well as quangos that carry out statutory and regulatory functions.

Freedom of information requests found that across these, 43 officials were paid more than the £140,647 salary of Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, while there were nearly 700 employees paid more than the £57,521 salary of a member of the Scottish Parliament.

Reform Scotland suggested that this showed spending by quangos, which are meant to be accountable to boards appointed by ministers, was not being monitored effectively.

‘The current lack of openness and accountability is not conducive to good governance,’ it stated.

‘This needs to change because the power exercised by government in our democracy derives from the consent of the people and should be exercised in their interests. It is difficult for people to judge whether that is the case when the current way in which government carries out its functions blurs accountability.’
The report recommended that quangos cease to exist as arm’s-length bodies. To improve accountability, their functions could be transferred to a government department, so they report directly to a minister, or turned into an autonomous body, such as a charity, that then has a contractual relationship with government.

‘In some cases, the best option will be to devolve their functions to local authorities – delivering the double benefit of accountability and real devolution – something we have suggested should happen to NHS boards,’ the report added.

‘Our recommendation would introduce greater clarity, openness and transparency into the political process in Scotland, and enhance the accountability of public expenditure to the Scottish electorate.’


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