What metrics will be in the contract to ensure that the promised quality is delivered in practice? Will there be financial penalties if it isn’t delivered?

Technical audit quality is a measure for the FRC as regulator. The Ethical Standard precludes contracts that contain fees that vary according to a pre-determined measure (for example specifying a date by which an audit opinion must be given).

We monitor the quality of audit services using a package of measures. We work with firms to improve matters where service has been poor, but our contractual options are limited. Our aim is to get to a position where we can replace auditors who do not meet the quality measures within our contracts and are not able to resolve the issues. However, the current shortage makes this very challenging, and is another reason for wanting to strengthen the supplier options available to us in the future.

Our audit contracts from 2023/24 contain a range of new provisions designed to improve service delivery which are summarised below, as per our webinar in March 2022 in which we explained the new features of the contract.

We are currently developing the practical arrangements for contract monitoring aligned to these strengthened provisions.

The measures in the new contract include:

The fact remains that as now, our statutory sanction of being able to remove auditors from appointments (e.g. for performance or other issues) is largely moot as there is no surplus in the local audit market. As referenced in our press release, we had to go through several procurement stages to get enough capacity to make the appointments which is far from ideal, this would be a surplus of supply and increased competition. In this context neither we nor the system can offer any guarantees on service delivery as our contract management framework is undermined by this capacity issue. What we can guarantee is that PSAA will do all we can to help the system tackle the issues. DLUHC has publicly stated that local audit will take years to fix, and no single action will solve it.