Agenda item

Council's Accounts Audit Update - 2019/20, Subsidiaries' accounts audit - 2022/23 and Progress on Accounts Closure - 2022/23



The Section 151 Officer (S151) updated the Committee on the position relating to progress with the external audit of the Council’s Accounts for 2019/20, the subsidiaries’ 2022/23 Accounts together with the latest information regarding the 2022/23 Council’s Accounts.


BDO had received all the necessary information by the end of July 2023 to allow them to complete their fieldwork for the 2019/20 accounts within the first week of their renewed audit visit (w/c 4 September 2023) which included responses to outstanding PPE queries and detailed working papers to address the national issue of Infrastructure Assets. Unfortunately, the audit did not resume on that date due to BDO prioritising its NHS audit overruns to those of the Council. Following a Teams meeting with BDO representatives there were no finalised plans agreed at that time as to when the audit of the 2019/20 Accounts would resume. Accordingly, BDO intended to address the matter in their update report (see minute 12 below).


Turning to the subsidiaries it was noted that they were required to have their accounts signed off and filed with Companies House by 31 December 2023. Assuming this deadline was met officers were intending to report to Committee on the final and audited outturn for each subsidiary early in the New Year.


Moving forward the draft Statement of Council Accounts 2022/23 had been completed with the Group Accounts to be completed as soon as the audits of the subsidiaries as reported above were concluded.


The S151 Officer reported that the DLUHC were working with the National Audit Organisation (NAO) to propose a workable solution to help reduce the backlog of outstanding audits across the country up until 2022/23 and to enable auditors to move onto auditing the most up to date financial information. How that will work in practice had yet to be confirmed by Government.  The S151 Officer would like the 2019/20 accounts to be signed off before the implementation of the backstop solution as the audit of these accounts was substantially complete and therefore an audit opinion could be issued in the normal way. As the audit work had been completed the Council would be required to pay substantial fees and it would not represent value-for-money for the local taxpayer for this process to be set aside by a new arrangement which would result in a qualified audit opinion in some way.


In response to Members questions the S151 Officer explained the reasoning behind completing the 2022/23 Accounts ahead of the completion & findings from the auditing of the 2019/20 accounts. In short there were two stages of the accounts, the first being the publication of the draft accounts followed by the external audit. The problem lied with the auditing of accounts which had been subject to significant delays over the past years, and which had been well documented at this Committee. The 2022/23 accounts had been ready to publish for some time, but a decision was taken not to publish them as it was not known whether the findings from the 2019/20 audit would impact them.


The S151 Officer also provided more detail and an understanding of the government backlog solution which BDO would talk about in their update report.


Despite the explanations and reasons provided about the delays with the Accounts the Committee put on record its concerns about the delays in completing the audits, a situation which in their view was totally unacceptable. Putting the costs to one side, it left Members with little confidence that matters would be resolved anytime soon.


The Committee NOTED the report.








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