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Audit and Accountability Meeting - 25 April 2022

21 Jul 2022


Welcome and Apologies 
Minutes and actions arising from previous meeting 
Any other business 


Audit & Accountability Committee 

Catherine Dyer (Chair) 
Lena Collins (LC) 
Elizabeth Humphreys (attending via MS Teams) (LH) 
John McCroskie (attending via MS Teams) (JMcC) 
Robert Scott (RS) 
Michelle Wailes (MW) 


Michelle Macleod     Commissioner 
Phil Chapman          Director of Operations 
Sharon Smit            Accountable Officer, Head of Corporate Services 
Jennifer Fisher        Secretariat 


Andrew O’Donnell, RSM (Auditor) 

Welcome and apologies 

No apologies were noted. 

Declaration of Interests 

No declarations from members were indicated. 

Minutes and actions arising from previous meeting 

Subject to one correction, the minutes of the previous meeting were approved. 

Actions Update 

Staff Survey results to be circulated to AAC members prior to next meeting. 
Representative from Azets (External Auditor) to attend July 2022 meeting. 

Policy being formalised. To be circulated to members when complete. 

Complaints: Performance Progress report to be provided annually. 

Internal Audit – RSM UK 

Progress Report 

Andrew O’Donnell advised that progress against the 2021/22 plan was 75% complete, with one report having been finalised since the previous committee meeting - a Review of the Trainee Programme. 

It was highlighted that the trainees advised auditors that they were aware of the expectations required of them to complete the programme and that, upon completion of the programme, they were equipped with the skills to perform the role of Investigator indicating that the outcome of the programme is effective. 

Additionally, members were advised the trainees had remarked that they had an effective working relationship with their mentors and Deputy Senior Investigators and that there had been clear emphasis on ensuring that they received as much experience as possible during their traineeship. 

Andrew O’Donnell advised members that the next audit scheduled to be undertaken was an IT Health check, however, due to workload pressures and sickness absence at RSM, this audit has been delayed. It was hoped that it would now take place in July 2022. 

External Audit – Azets 

There was no update as the representative from Azets was unable to attend.   

AP22 –Azets Representative to present this year’s audit plan at next ACC meeting. 


In addition to the paper circulated prior to the meeting, the Commissioner intimated the following: 

Public Inquiry – A significant volume of work continues to be undertaken by PIRC in preparation for Hearing 1 which is due to commence on 10 May 2022. 

Update: Hearing 1 has commenced and is due to run until early July. 

Civil Case – Pre-assize hearing scheduled for 27 April 2022. Hearing scheduled for 3 May 2022 and likely to be hosted by WebEx. 

Update: Civil hearing commenced on 3 May. Following 2 days of evidence, it has been adjourned for Counsel to submit written submissions. A further hearing has been fixed for 8 August. 

Justice Board – The Commissioner advised that she had met with newly appointed Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, Craig Naylor and other Heads of Inspectorates at the Justice Board Meeting on 21 April 2022. 

PIRC – NCARU Audit – The Chair asked for clarification on what, if any, impact the audit has had on PIRC staffing resources. The Director of Operations confirmed that 2 staff from Reviews and 2 staff from Investigations were undertaking the audit in conjunction with colleagues from the SPA. He stated that there had been no adverse impact on PIRC resourcing in undertaking the audit. It was additionally noted that the audit was currently ahead of schedule with a preliminary report expected to be available by end of June 2022. 

The Director of Operations agreed to provide an update to members at the AAC meeting in July 2022. 

RS asked if PIRC was satisfied with the uptake of applications from recent recruitment campaigns. Sharon Smit advised that there had been a sufficiency of applications received for each vacancy allowing for interviews to be scheduled. It was also noted that the HR Administrator post was re-advertised as the successful candidate has withdrawn. 

JMcC asked if there was to be any collaborative working with HMICS in relation to the NCARU Audit. The Commissioner advised NCARU Audit was being undertaken by the PIRC in conjunction with the SPA. She advised that she had met with Craig Naylor on two occasions since his appointment. There is regular contact between HMICS and the PIRC to ensure that HMICS are sighted on any trends/themes identified by the PIRC. HMICS has recently published its 3 year Scrutiny Plan. 

MW sought clarification if PIRC was aware of recently published recommendations for improving how Scottish Government Sponsor Teams manage relationships with public bodies. The Commissioner advised that the recommendations did not apply to PIRC. The Chair advised that members from the Scottish Government Sponsor Team had requested to attend the July 2022 AAC meeting with a view to being better informed of the work of the Committee. This will, in turn, allow more informed consideration of Recommendation 34 from the Dame Angiolini Report – to create a Statutory Board. 

Members agreed to the Sponsor Team attending the July meeting. 


Draft PIRC Management Accounts: 

In addition to the paper circulated prior to the meeting, the Accountable Officer / Head of Corporate Services advised of the following: 

Members were advised that there was an approximate £316k underspend attributable to unutilised budget uplift for staff during the pandemic. It was further noted that the Sponsor Team had been made aware of this position and that these funds would be returned to Scottish Government. 

Members were advised that the PIRC had received an uplift of £350k to the 2022/23 budget. The total budgetary provision for 2022/23 was noted as £5,824k. 

Performance Management 

In addition to the papers circulated prior to the meeting, Phil Chapman, Director of Operations, advised of the following: 

Investigations Performance Report, Yearly Comparison and Statistical Information: 

Currently 58 live investigations, an increase of 25 from the previous year. 

124 investigations had been carried out in 2021/22, an increase of 46 from the previous year. 

It was noted that although year end KPIs had been achieved (KPI 1 - 85% of Investigation reports submitted to the referring body within 3 months of the start of the Investigations and KPI 2 - 97% of Referrals assessed and an investigation decision taken within 5 working days of receipt of relevant information), the quarterly KPI statistics showed that only 67% of investigations were completed within the agreed timescales. This was due to the high volume of Article 3 & 5 Investigations being undertaken. 

The Director of Operations highlighted that since the inception of the Article 3 & 5 Assessment Unit in October 2021, 119 referrals had been received from Police Scotland. It was further noted that this was a significantly higher number of referrals than Police Scotland had anticipated when the Article 3 & 5 process change was agreed between PIRC, COPFS and Police Scotland. 

LC asked if any additional resourcing / funding for resourcing had been considered or requested. The Director of Operations advised that PIRC would review the impact of the Article 3 & 5 process change after 1 full year (in October 2022). The Chair agreed that a full review and further discussion should take place once this assessment has been completed. 

Reviews Performance Report, Yearly Comparison and Statistical Information: 

It was noted that although KPI 1 had been achieved for the year end (KPI 1 – 80 % of cases closed within 4 months), KPI 2 (80 % of cases closed within 4 months (applications carried forward from previous financial year) and KPI 3 (Reduction in the number of outstanding Case Handling Reviews) had not been met. 

The Director of Operations highlighted that 68% of complaints reviewed were found to have been reasonably handled by Police Scotland, the second highest return rate since 2013/2014 and 13 reconsideration directions were issued (a slight decrease from the previous year). 

The Director of Operations highlighted that 41 cases were unallocated at this time. 

The Chair remarked that it was encouraging to note a decrease in the length of time to complete cases (a reduction from 6.3 months in 2020/21 to 4.6 months in 2021/22). 

RS noted that the number of recommendations implemented had dropped to 48%, year to date. The Director of Operations advised that recommendations issued are reviewed regularly to ascertain what corrective work Police Scotland have undertaken to address the recommendations. 

Members agreed that the priority at this time was to continue to reduce the number of outstanding cases and move to meet all the KPIs in 2022/23. The Director of Operations advised that work was ongoing and he would provide further feedback at a future meeting. 

Corporate Services Performance Report, Yearly Comparison, Statistical Information and Complaints overview: 

In addition to the papers circulated prior to the meeting, the Head of Corporate Services, advised of the following: 

Members were asked to note the significant increase in the number of vacancies advertised, interviews conducted and staff recruited 2021/22 against the previous year. 

Members were advised that the notice period for new staff has been extended to 3 months. 

The Head of Corporate Services further advised that the organisation had encountered difficulties in recent recruitment campaigns, in particular when recruiting for niche skill set vacancies i.e. Business Analyst. 

The Head of Corporate Services advised that the Corporate Services Performance Management Report will be amended and figures relating to ‘Annual Leave – Days Remaining’  will now be reported in the same manner that ‘Flexi/TOIL Hours (end period balance)’ are reported i.e. the report will now show the average number of annual leave day remaining per staff headcount.’ 

LC asked if there was any rationale for the increase in staff turnover from 2020-21 to 2021-22. The Head of Corporate Services advised that a CIPD calculator was now being utilised to measure staff turnover and retention data and to gain a better understanding of why staff are leaving the organisation. She advised that she would add a caveat to the report highlighting this change. 

It was noted that although year end KPIs had been achieved in the main (KPI’s 1, 2, 3 and 5 achieved), KPI 4 (Publish Learning Point bulletins to policing bodies, identifying thematic issues and potential learning) had not been achieved. It was explained that the March 2022 Learning Point publication had missed the KPI by 5 days. 

LH asked for clarification on whether the recording of complaints included those complaints not upheld and what learning process are recorded. It was confirmed that a complaints database is maintained and within it there is a ‘lessons learned’ field. LH suggested it would be beneficial to provide a full Complaints Performance Report annually to the AAC. 

MW noted that there was an increase in the number of complaints received in 2021/22 from previous years and asked if there was any known rationale for the increase. The Head of Corporate Services advised that the Information Coordinator was reviewing the complaints received to ascertain if any themes could be identified. 

AP29 – Complaints Performance Report to be provided to members annually. 

In discussion the Commissioner confirmed that a number of complaints arose from misunderstanding of the role of PIRC in respect of Reviews. Despite letters advising of the purpose of the Review process, some members of the public expected that PIRC would review the decisions that had been made by Police Scotland, rather than what is reviewed, which is whether the way in which Police Scotland processed the complaint was in line with their appropriate Policies. The Chair asked if it would be helpful if there was a video available on the PIRC website explaining the role of PIRC in this respect which members of the public could be directed to. The Commissioner advised that this would be reviewed within the remit of the Accessibility Work project. 

AP30 - To consider producing a video explaining the role/work of PIRC in respect of Reviews. 

JMcC questioned what steps the organisation were taking in order to address any staff wellbeing issues and concerns regarding the cost of living increase. The Head of Corporate Services advised that several responses received in the Staff Hybrid Working Survey highlighted that staff were keen to continue hybrid working as they had noted a reduction in costs associated with attending the office. The Committee were advised that an amended Hybrid Working Guidance document was being prepared. It was agreed to provide members with a copy when available. 

AP31 - To provide members with a copy of the revised hybrid working model guidance. 

The Head of Corporate Services further advised that the organisation has a team of Mental Health First Aiders, a Wellbeing at Work Programme and that staff had recently taken part in a Wellbeing Walking Challenge. It was also noted that both current and new PIRC Mental Health First Aiders were due to attend training sessions in the coming weeks. In addition it was confirmed that vicarious trauma occupational health sessions are set up annually for Family Liaison Officers (FLO’s). 

The Chair asked if the organisation considered arranging Trauma Informed Training for all other relevant staff. The Commissioner advised that staff had undertaken Scottish Government Trauma Informed training (led by NHS Education for Scotland), however, it had proven difficult to identify an external training provider to provide additional training. Members suggested contacting organisations involved with the Child Abuse Public Inquiry or Redress Scotland to identify a training provider. 

The Head of Corporate Services advised that many organisations had been asked to consider moving to a standardised 35-hour working week but highlighted that this would prove challenging while flexi balances remain high. 

The Head of Corporate Services provided an update to members in relation to the Accommodation Business Case recently submitted to Scottish Government, noting that, if the business case was approved, the organisation would lease the entirety of the 1st floor within Hamilton House. This additional office space would allow the organisation to have additional work stations / hot desks, a Production / Secure Storage area, meetings rooms and dedicated interview rooms. 

Risk Register and Audit Action Log 

Risk Register: 

As members had attended a Risk Management Workshop earlier in the day this agenda item was not reviewed at this time. 

Audit Action Log: 

It was noted that once items were complete, they would be removed from the log. 

Accessibility Update 

In addition to the paper circulated prior to the meeting, Phil Chapman, Director of Operations, advised of the following: 

With a full Communications Team in place, with the exception of the online Complaints Handling Review Form, the PIRC aim to have all accessibility work completed by the end of April 2022. 

LH asked if any testing had been conducted by people with accessibility issues. The Director of Operations advised that minimal testing had taken place and agreed to provide an additional update at a future meeting. 

Any other business

LH asked if PIRC was aware of types of considerations that are best practice when dealing with cases or complaints that involve children and young people in terms of an organisation’s responsibility in accordance with corporate parenting. 

The Commissioner advised that PIRC were not listed as one of the Scottish Public Bodies defined as corporate parents within the guidance, however, if any concerns / issues were raised, PIRC would look to secure an Advocacy Service or engage the use of an Appropriate Adult. The Commissioner advised that she would review the guidance and take cognisance of any actions highlighted. 

The Chair closed the meeting and thanked all attendees. 

Date of next meeting – 21 July 2022

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