A police chief has defended paying an accountant nearly £1,000 a day to help plug a predicted £200m hole in the force’s finances.
James Gray, from PriceWaterhouseCooper, was drafted in by the Scottish Police Authority last June in an effort to fix the financial turmoil at the force, which must find £1.1bn of savings by 2026.
The SPA boss John Foley said paying a £950 daily rate to the temporary chief finance officer was “good value”.
“We need to have someone who is experienced and knows what they are doing because the risk of not having that is much greater,” he told MSPs.
He dismissed a suggestion that senior figures would “not touch the police with a barge pole” after his attempts to recruit a finance director from the public sector failed.
MSPs challenged SPA bosses and the Chief Constable over the force’s accounts on Thursday, which have come under heavy criticism.
A damning report in December by the Auditor General found SPA’s accounts contained a series of basic mistakes.
Police bosses admitted they are still lacking expertise in their finance departments and, four years on from the creation of the single police force, still struggle to cope with the merger.
Back office functions had still not been successfully integrated, which had contributed to the financial problems, the Holyrood committee heard.
The Auditor General has predicted a police funding gap of nearly £200m over the next three years.
Earlier, Andrew Flanagan, the SPA chairman, denied the force was in crisis.
He said there are a “series of issues that we need to tackle”, adding: “If you want to talk about crisis in policing, I don’t think it’s about in Scotland, I think it’s about other parts of the UK.”
He added although the £60m deficit for 2017/18 is “challenging”, it represents 6% of total police spending, adding they have made “significant progress” in addressing financial issues over the past year.
Jenny Marra, convener of the public audit committee, said such financial and leadership failures are “unacceptable” almost four years on from the establishment of Police Scotland.
“Their efforts to reduce a projected £188 million funding gap must not affect public safety in any way,” she added.
The SPA said they expect to appoint a permanent chief finance officer in April.