Final Prospectus 2023 and beyond

PSAA’s commitments

PSAA will contract with appropriately qualified suppliers

In accordance with the 2014 Act, audit firms must be registered with one of the chartered accountancy institutes – currently the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) – acting in the capacity of a Recognised Supervisory Body (RSB). The quality of their work will then be subject to inspection by either or potentially both the RSB and the FRC. Currently there are fewer than ten firms registered to carry out local audit work.

We will take a close interest in the results of RSB and FRC inspections and the subsequent plans that firms develop to address any areas in which inspectors highlight the need for improvement. We will also focus on the rigour and effectiveness of firms’ own internal quality assurance arrangements, recognising that these represent some of the earliest and most important safety nets for identifying and remedying any problems arising. To help inform our scrutiny of both external inspections and internal quality assurance processes, we will invite regular feedback from both audit committee chairs and chief finance officers of audited bodies.

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PSAA will support market sustainability

We are very conscious that our next procurement will take place at a very difficult time given all of the fragility and uncertainties within the external audit market.

Throughout our work we will be alert to new and relevant developments that may emerge from the Government’s response to the Kingman, CMA and Brydon Reviews, as well as its response to the issues relating specifically to local audit highlighted by the Redmond Review. We will adjust or tailor our approach as necessary to maximise the achievement of our procurement objectives.

A top priority must be to encourage market sustainability. Firms will be able to bid for a variety of differently sized contracts so that they can match their available resources and risk appetite to the contract for which they bid. They will be required to meet appropriate quality standards and to reflect realistic market prices in their tenders, informed by the scale fees and the supporting information provided about each audit. Where regulatory changes are in train which affect the amount of audit work which suppliers must undertake, firms will be informed as to which developments should be priced into their bids. Other regulatory changes will be addressed through the fee variation process, where appropriate in the form of national variations.

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PSAA will offer value for money

Audit fees must ultimately be met by individual audited bodies. The prices submitted by bidders through the procurement will be the key determinant of the value of audit fees paid by opted-in bodies.

We believe that the most likely way to secure competitive arrangements in a suppliers’ market is to work collectively together as a sector.

We will seek to encourage realistic fee levels and to benefit from the economies of scale associated with procuring on behalf of a significant number of bodies. We will also continue to seek to minimise our own costs (which represent approximately 4% of overall scheme costs). We are a not-for-profit company and any surplus funds will be returned to scheme members. For example, in 2019 we returned a total £3.5million to relevant bodies and, more recently, we announced a further distribution of £5.6m in August 2021.

We will continue to pool scheme costs and charge fees to opted-in bodies in accordance with our published fee scale as amended from time to time following consultations with scheme members and other interested parties. Pooling is a key tenet of the national collective scheme.

Additional fees (fee variations) are part of the statutory framework. They only occur if auditors are required to do substantially more work than anticipated, for example, if local circumstances or the Code of Audit Practice change or the regulator (the FRC) increases its requirement on auditors.

Audit developments since 2018 have focused considerable attention on audit fees. The drive to improve audit quality has created significant fee pressures as auditors have needed to extend their work to ensure compliance with increased regulatory requirements. Changes in audit scope and technical standards, such as the requirement in the new Code of Audit Practice 2020 for the auditor to provide a VFM arrangements commentary, have also had an impact. Fees are rising in response to the volume of additional audit work now required.

The outcome is awaited of MHCLG’s recent consultation on changes to the regulations, designed to provide the appointing person with greater flexibility to allow a fee scale to be set during the audit year (rather than before it starts). If implemented, these changes will enable approved recurring fee variations to be baked into the scale fee at an earlier date so the scale fees are more accurate and the volume of fee variations is reduced.

It is important to emphasise that by opting into the national scheme you have the reassurance that we review and robustly assess each fee variation proposal in line with statutory requirements. We draw on our technical knowledge and extensive experience in order to assess each submission, comparing with similar submissions in respect of other bodies/auditors before reaching a decision.

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