Watchdog criticises police accountants for missing £21m as single force looks to plug deficit

Andrew Flanagan

A watchdog has said £21 million is unaccounted for inPolice Scotland’s accounts and that it is in a “critical” position without a long-term financial strategy.

Audit Scotland suggested millions of pounds were missing from the books in addition incomplete records and late alterations in its review of the Scottish Police Authority’s (SPA) accounts for 2014/15.

It predicted an £85 million black hole in the policing budget in the coming three years, with auditor general Caroline Gardner saying they were handed accounts that were “incomplete, of poor quality and were subject to substantial changes”.

She added: “By the end of the audit, the majority of numbers in the primary financial statements had changed. This is exceptional in our wider experience of auditing public sector accounts.”

Ms Gardner also said progress towards a comprehensive financial strategy was “slow” and that £21m was unaccounted for in the reform budget.

Labour justice spokesman, Graeme Pearson ,said: “To have no robust financial management of a strategic plan to deliver on behalf of Police Scotland is nothing short of criminal.”

SPA chairman, Andrew Flanagan, said a chief financial officer will be brought in and that the forecasted overspend for 2015/16 is £22.3m.

Its immediate goals are “to get our financial house in order to avoid a further critical audit report”.

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