This year’s position on delayed audit opinions underscores the scale of the huge challenge that local audit is facing. At the publishing date of 30 November 2022, only 12% of local government bodies’ 2021/22 audit opinions have been given. Although this is slightly higher than last year’s 9%, this year’s publishing date is two months later than the 30 September target for delivery of 2020/21 opinions.
The table below sets out the comparison with previous years.
|Year of Account||Publishing Date||Opinions given at the publishing date|
|2021/22||30 November 2022||12%|
|2020/21||30 September 2021||9%|
|2019/20||30 November 2020||45%|
|2018/19||31 July 2019||57%|
What makes the latest position increasingly alarming is that more than 220 opinions from prior years remain outstanding. As opinions have been given at fewer than 60 bodies for 2021/22, this means that a total of more than 630 opinions are currently late. This year the position has been made more difficult by uncertainties concerning the valuation of infrastructure assets, adding to significant ongoing challenges of recruiting and retaining sufficient staff with the requisite knowledge, skills and experience to both prepare and audit the accounts to the required standard.
Steve Freer, PSAA’s Chair said,
“The scale of the backlog of outstanding opinions is such that it is beginning to seriously undermine the financial management, governance and accountability of local government bodies. As 2023 approaches more than 160 bodies are still awaiting audit opinions for both 2020/21 and 2021/22 and for some even earlier years. As a result they are making decisions, managing multiple financial challenges and laying plans for the future with limited assurance about their underlying financial positions. The local audit system desperately needs to find a way of clearing the backlog and restoring the norm of timely opinions as quickly as possible.”