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Governance and finance

Governance and finance

The Scottish Information Commissioner is an independent public official, appointed by Her Majesty the Queen on the nomination of the Scottish Parliament. This means that the functions carried out by the Commissioner are not directed or controlled by the Scottish Government or Parliament

The Commissioner's functions

The Commissioner's functions include investigating appeals and issuing legally enforceable decisions. Applicants and public authorities have a right to appeal the Commissioner's decisions, on a point of law, to the Court of Session. The Commissioner also provides guidance to public authorities on how to meet their legal obligations, and information to the public about their rights.

The Commissioner is answerable for the use of public money which is provided in order to carry out these functions. This section of the website explains how this works, and describes the arrangements that are in place to scrutinise the Commissioner's management of public resources.

Management of the Commissioner's functions

The Scottish Information Commissioner is a public authority, receiving public funding, and is therefore responsible for the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which those resources are used. More information below.

Managing the organisation

The Commissioner and the Senior Management Team (SMT) meet regularly. The SMT is responsible for the development and operation of the functions which support the Commissioner in exercising the duties and responsibilities of the role. Minutes of these meetings are published on this website. There are also office policies and procedures which direct how the office is run.

The senior management team (SMT)

The SMT are:

  • Daren Fitzhenry, Scottish Information Commissioner (chairing member)
  • Margaret Keyse, Head of Enforcement
  • Claire Stephen, Acting Head of Policy and Information
  • Helen Gardner-Swift, Head of Corporate Services

The SMT meets formally every month. Meetings follow a standard agenda based on our annual work programme, plus any other matters which the Chair agrees to include. A full description of the purpose and duties of the SMT and the standard agenda for formal meetings are in the Commissioner's governance arrangements.

SMT meeting minutes and papers 2022

Minutes and papers 29 March 2022 (links still to be added)

  • Agenda
  • Minutes
  • Item 2. Operational Plan 2021.22 - Monitoring Report
  • Item 3. Operational Risk Register 2021-22
  • Item 4. Internal Audit - UK GPR and data protection compliance
  • Item 5. Recruitment - Corporate Services Team
  • Item 6. Recruitment - Enforcement

Minutes and papers 23 February 2022

Minutes and papers 03 February 2022 (links still to be added)

  • Agenda 
  • Minutes
  • Item 2. Finance Report
  • Item 3. Information Requests and Reviews
  • Item 4. Subject Access Requests
  • Item 6. Investigations Performance
  • Item 9. UK GDPR Report
  • Item 10. Q3 Interventions Report
  • Item 13. Publication Scheme (SIC) Assurance Report
  • Item 14. Self-Assessment Tools
  • Item 16. Employment Policy update
  • Item 18. Investigations Handbook - updates and amendments to Scheme of Delegation
SMT meeting minutes and papers 2021

Minutes and papers 16 December 2021

Minutes and papers 24 November 2021

Minutes and papers 03 November 2021

Minutes and papers 07 October 2021

Minutes and papers 14 September 2021

Minutes and papers 04 August 2021

Minutes and papers 30 June 2021

Minutes and papers 02 June 2021

Minutes and papers 29 April 2021 (part 1) and 12 May 2021 (part 2)

Statutory reporting

Details of statutory reports that the Commissioner is required to prepare and publish.

Annual reports and audited accounts

Section 46 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (the FOI Act) requires the Commissioner to lay an annual general report on the exercise of the Commissioner's functions before the Scottish Parliament.

In addition, Schedule 2 of the FOI Act requires that the Commissioner keep accounts, and prepare annual accounts in respect of each financial year (1 April to 31 March). The Commissioner must send a copy of the annual accounts to the Auditor General for Scotland for auditing, and make the audited accounts available to the public.

View the Commissioner's annual reports and audited annual accounts.

The Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010

The Commissioner has legal obligations to provide information on certain types of expenditure, and on how he/she has exercised his/her functions. Part 3 of the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 (the PSR Act) sets out details of certain annual statements which the Commissioner must publish. The annual statements are published below.

Statements of expenditure

After the end of each financial year, the Commissioner must publish statements for that financial year on:

  • Expenditure on public relations, overseas travel, hospitality and entertainment, and external consultancy
  • Details of any individual payments made which are over £25,000
  • Number of staff who receive remuneration of over £150,000

 

 

Statements on exercise of functions

After the end of each financial year, the Commissioner must publish statements for that financial year on how, through the exercise of his/her functions, steps have been taken:

  • To promote and increase sustainable growth
  • To improve efficiency, effectiveness and economy.

The Commissioner's Annual Report provides details of the steps that have been taken to improve efficiency, effectiveness and economy during the financial year, together with a summary of sustainable growth. The Commissioner has also produced a full Statement on Sustainable Growth.

Performance and quality framework

The Commissioner is responsible for reporting the quality and performance of the organisation in delivering statutory duties and responsibilities. Quality assurance is the system by which we measure, report on and achieve continuous improvement. Performance management is the system by which we monitor and report performance against organisational outcomes.

About the framework

The Scottish Information Commissioner is accountable for the delivery of a range of statutory duties and functions. This delivery must be to a defined standard which meets the legislation and, where practicable, the expectations of people seeking information. The Performance and Quality Framework sets out how we measure, monitor and report on our performance and the quality standards of the outputs delivered by our organisation.

Framework approach

We take a holistic approach to the development and definition of our quality measures and performance framework:

  • Quality assurance is the system by which we measure, report on and achieve continuous improvement in our quality of work
  • Performance management is the system we use to monitor and report on our organisational outputs
  • The Quality and Performance Framework is the mechanism for reporting these outcomes publicly. It is supported by internal systems to identify and monitor how individuals' performance contributes to the outputs of the whole organisation

There are four strands to the Framework:

  1. Communication, proactive dissemination and openness
  2. Deciding applications
  3. Monitoring, promoting and assessing FOI performance Operational efficiency

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Financial performance

The Commissioner, as accountable officer, is responsible for signing the accounts, ensuring the regularity of the finances, and that resources are used economically, efficiently and effectively. The Commissioner publishes information on budgets and expenditure, including statements as required under the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010.

The Commissioner is funded with public money, and is responsible for ensuring the regularity of his/her finances. The Commissioner must be able to show that resources have been used economically, efficiently and effectively. The Commissioner is required, by law, to keep accounts, and prepare a set of accounts every year which must then be audited by Audit Scotland.

The Commissioner publishes a range of financial performance information, including audited annual accounts, via the publication scheme. See the Guide to Information for more details on what is published.

Financial accountability

Commissioner's duties as Accountable Officer

Paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 designates the Commissioner as Accountable Officer. The Accountable Officer signs the accounts, ensures the propriety and regularity of the finances, and ensures that resources are used economically, efficiently and effectively. The Commissioner is answerable to the Scottish Parliament, in the discharge of these responsibilities.

The relevant responsibilities as Accountable Officer are set out in the Memorandum to Accountable Officers for Other Public Bodies, issued by the Scottish Government and published in the Scottish Public Finance Manual.

How the Commissioner is funded

The Scottish Information Commissioner is one of a number of officeholders for which the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) is responsible for providing an annual budget.

The Commissioner's financial year runs from 1 April to 31 March. Each summer the SPCB writes to the Commissioner seeking a budget submission for the next financial year, together with an indicative budget for the year after that.

So, for example, the July 2019 submission mapped out the budget for 2020-21 and indicated a budget for 2021-22. The SPCB's letter will include instructions on the format and content of the Commissioner's budget submission and might include, for example, guidance on what it considers to be generally appropriate increases or decreases.

The SPCB scrutinises the Commissioner's budget and also has power to approve the budget. Over the autumn the SPCB and the Commissioner discuss the budget submission, and agree changes if necessary. This process can involve correspondence and face to face meetings. Importantly, the process of scrutiny must balance the requirement for the Commissioner to be accountable for use of public funds, with the need to maintain independence in performing the duties under the legislation.

The Commissioner's budget then forms part of the SPCB's overall budget submission, which must be approved by the Scottish Parliament's Finance Committee, usually around November. The entire Scottish budget, including the SPCB's, goes before the full Scottish Parliament, and once approved the Commissioner receives a letter confirming the budget, normally in March.

View the Commissioner's Annual Audited Accounts.

Budgets and expenditure

The Commissioner reports expenditure to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body every month. The "Financial Summary Report" shows the breakdown of the Commissioner's budget and expenditure to date by budget line e.g.

  • staff salary costs and expenses
  • the Commissioner's travel and expenses
  • property maintenance costs
  • office running costs
  • professional fees
  • court costs
  • capital expenditure

Financial Summary Report

The report shows how much has been spent to date on each of these, and what, if any, variance this represents on the agreed budget. The Commissioner's financial year runs from 1 April to 31 March. Each report shows the cumulative expenditure in the financial year to date. The final expenditure report, for March, shows the total expenditure for the year compared to the approved budget.

Financial Summary - December 2021

Financial Summary - March 2021

Financial Summary - March 2020

Cost of Court Appeals

The document below shows the costs incurred to date by the Scottish Information Commissioner in defending statutory appeals / judicial reviews made to the courts, plus any costs awarded to the Commissioner which relate to those proceedings.

Cost of Court Appeals

Senior Management Team Expense Claims

Detailed below are Senior Management Team expense claim forms approved for payment in the stated quarter. 

2019/20 Q1 Expense claim - M Keyse

2019/20 Q1 Expense claim - H Gardner-Swift

Relationship with SPCB

The Scottish Information Commissioner is one of several officeholders which the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB) provides with an annual budget. Changes to the law have strengthened the powers that the SPCB has to approve or direct some of the Commissioner's activities (but not investigations or decisions).

The SPCB includes members from all the main political parties. The SPCB nominates the Scottish Information Commissioner for appointment, and since the beginning has provided the Commissioner's funding and approved decisions to appoint new staff. However, the Scottish Parliamentary Commissions and Commissioners etc. Act 2010 gave the SPCB additional powers which are explained here.

The Commissioner's use of resources

The SPCB approves the Commissioner's annual budget. It also has to agree to any fees which the Commissioner pays to external advisers e.g. legal advisers. The SPCB approves decisions to appoint staff and their terms and conditions including pension arrangements. Any decision the Commissioner makes to buy or dispose of land must be approved by the SPCB, and the Commissioner must comply with any direction from the SPCB on where to locate offices.

In addition, the SPCB can direct the Commissioner on sharing premises, staff, services or other resources with other commissioners and ombudsmen in Scotland who are also funded by the SPCB (or any other public body).

Strategic planning and reporting

The Commissioner must submit a four-year strategic plan to the SPCB and the Keeper of the Records of Scotland for comment, and can also seek comments from others, including a parliamentary committee. View current and past strategic and operational plans.

The Commissioner must also lay an annual report before parliament. The SPCB can direct the Commissioner on the form and content of this report. View annual reports of the Scottish Information Commissioner.

Terms and conditions and leaving Office

The SPCB determines the Commissioner's terms and conditions, and approves any other post held by the Commissioner while in office. The SPCB can recommend that the Commissioner is removed from office if it thinks that the Commissioner has broken his/her terms and conditions. The Commissioner may also be removed from office if the Scottish Parliament has lost confidence in his/her willingness, suitability or ability to function. In both cases the final decision lies with the Scottish Parliament and two thirds of all MSPs would have to agree.

The Commissioner will serve a single fixed six year term, and it will not be possible for a commissioner to be reappointed after that. For a period of time after leaving office, the Commissioner must get the SPCB's approval for certain appointments. These include working in a Scottish public authority, or working for the new Commissioner.

Advisory audit board

As an accountable officer the Commissioner is supported by the AAB. The AAB advises on the arrangements in place for corporate governance, managing risk and auditing financial and management performance.

More about the advisory audit board

The Advisory Audit Board (AAB) was set up in 2005 to advise the Commissioner on, and review, the arrangements in place for corporate governance, managing risk and auditing financial and management performance.

A full copy of the purpose and duties of the AAB is in the Commissioner's governance arrangements. The AAB meets at least once a year (more frequently if required), and the secretariat is provided by the Commissioner's staff. The Commissioner and a member of staff attend the meetings, but they are not Board members. Members give their time voluntarily - there is no remuneration.

AAB reviews

The AAB reviews and advises the Commissioner on matters including:

  • The adequacy of arrangements for ensuring sound internal control, including those for assessing and managing business risk
  • The planned activity of Audit Scotland in relation to the Scottish Information Commissioner, and the results of its work
  • The major findings of audit reports insofar as they affect the overall performance of the Commissioner's office
  • The adequacy of the Commissioner's responses to issues identified by audit activity, and the arrangements for monitoring the implementation of agreed recommendations
  • Other sources of assurance relating to corporate governance requirements for the Commissioner, including reports on financial management and related issues

The AAB reports to the Commissioner once a year for the purpose of the annual report and accounts, and may provide reports at other times if it thinks this is necessary.

The Commissioner's external auditors (Audit Scotland) have access to the AAB members, and normally attend meetings of the AAB.