Scottish Police Authority Inspection Report Reveals Leadership Concerns

21 June 2017, 14:05 | Updated: 21 June 2017, 14:07

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An inspection of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has revealed concerns remain about leadership at the watchdog.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) found ''shortcomings'' in the capacity of chief executive John Foley and senior managers to provide expert advice and support to the board.

HMICS concluded this was a ''fundamental weakness'' in governance arrangements at the SPA.

The review also identified ''dysfunction'' in the relationship between Mr Foley and outgoing chair Andrew Flanagan, who announced his resignation last week.

''HMICS considers that the current SPA internal executive structures are impacting negatively on the effectiveness and efficiency of the SPA to perform its statutory functions and must be addressed as a matter of urgency,'' the report added.

The report welcomed Justice Secretary Michael Matheson's announcement of a review of how the SPA board can be better-supported and made 11 further recommendations.

Scottish Labour called on Mr Foley to consider his position in light of the criticism.

The inspection was carried out to assess openness and transparency at the watchdog after serious concerns were raised by two Holyrood committees.

Among the issues it considered were the SPA's decision to hold meetings in private, restrictions on the publication of meeting papers and the handling of the resignation of former board member Moi Ali.

HMICS found evidence of positive signs of improvement in SPA operations but concluded the watchdog had taken a ''narrow interpretation'' of the law in support of the decision to hold committee meetings in private.

The report concluded the recent decision to move back to public meetings ''has been made reluctantly and some members continue to believe their original approach is justified''.

''This is illustrative of an ongoing lack of appreciation amongst some members of stakeholder views and the need to secure public confidence in policing governance,'' it said.

HMICS concluded the ''primary'' reason for restricting access to board papers had been to reduce press reports and said attempts to embargo papers was not desirable or sustainable.

In relation to Ms Ali's resignation, the inspection said she had acted fully in accordance with guidance for board members but found no evidence of a ''bullying culture''.

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Derek Penman said: ''The scrutiny of policing must not only be effective, it must also be seen to be effective.

''While there have been positive improvements under the current chair, the recent parliamentary scrutiny and media concerns over openness and transparency have weakened confidence in the SPA and detracted from its ability to perform its statutory function.''

Responding to the report, Mr Flanagan said: ''SPA has already acknowledged recent mistakes made, has listened to the strengthened civic and public concerns around transparency and responded accordingly.

''However, two charges that have been levelled at the SPA in recent months is that we were creating an organisation to keep secrets and that we were inappropriately taking decisions behind closed-doors which should have been made in public.

''It is notable that the HMICS inspection report contains no evidence or findings that would support either of those accusations.''

Scottish Labour justice spokeswoman Claire Baker said: ''Chief executive John Foley now has serious questions to answer over his role and the criticisms in this report.

''A complete overhaul of the management structure at the SPA is now needed and the chief executive must consider his position.''

Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur said: ''The SPA must use this report, the criticism from two parliamentary committees and the recent resignation of Andrew Flanagan as the impetus for root-and-branch reform.

''An SPA lurching from crisis to crisis is in no-one's interests.''