Audited accounts are the main way public bodies show accountability for managing public money. Publishing timely audited accounts, with an unqualified audit opinion, is a key element of financial reporting and financial management arrangements and a fundamental feature of good governance.
The Audit Commission previously published Auditing the Accounts reports summarising the results of the work of auditors appointed by the Audit Commission at local government and local NHS bodies.
Up to and including the audits of accounts for 2017/18, PSAA has been responsible for delivering statutory functions delegated on a transitional basis by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Under these arrangements, put in place in 2015, PSAA has been responsible for appointing auditors to local government and police bodies and for setting audit fees. Before 1 April 2015, these responsibilities were discharged by the Audit Commission.
In July 2016, the Secretary of State specified PSAA as an appointing person under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. This means that for audits of accounts from 2018/19, PSAA is responsible for appointing auditors to relevant principal local government and police bodies that have chosen to opt into its national auditor appointment scheme.
PSAA reports annually on the results of auditors’ work at councils, police bodies, fire and rescue authorities and other local government bodies.
Report on the results of auditors’ work 2017/18: Principal local government and police bodies
This is the fourth report published by PSAA and summarises the results of auditors’ work at 495 principal local government and police bodies for 2017/18. This will be the final report under the statutory functions from the Audit Commission Act 1998 that were delegated to PSAA on a transitional basis.
The report covers the timeliness and quality of financial reporting, auditors’ local value for money work, and the extent to which auditors used their statutory reporting powers.
For 2017/18, the statutory accounts publication deadline came forward by two months to 31 July 2018. This was challenging for bodies and auditors and it is encouraging that 87 per cent of audited bodies received an audit opinion by the new deadline.
The number of qualified conclusions on value for money arrangements looks set to remain relatively constant. It currently stands at 7 per cent (32 councils, 1 fire and rescue authority, 1 police body and 2 other local government bodies) compared to 8 per cent for 2016/17, with a further 30 conclusions for 2017/18 still to be issued.
All the opinions issued to date in relation to bodies’ financial statements are unqualified, as was the case for the 2016/17 accounts. Auditors have made statutory recommendations to three bodies, compared to two such cases in respect of 2016/17, and issued an advisory notice to one body.