Public sector audit work improves for 2011/12

THE STANDARD of auditors’ work at local public bodies improved during the last financial year, the Audit Commission has said.

The Audit Commission’s Auditing the Accounts 2011/12 report found there have been improvements in the standard of financial reporting at councils, fire and rescue authorities, police bodies, other local government bodies, parish councils and internal drainage boards.

Of the 472 principal bodies covered by the report, 426 had published their 2011/12 accounts by 30 September as required. However, the Audit Commission raised concerns about Birmingham City Council, England’s largest council, where the auditor has not yet been able to issue an opinion on the 2011/12 accounts.

The report also found that most audited bodies received an unqualified audit opinion on their accounts.

Paul Mason, assistant director for professional services at CIPFA, welcomed the report’s conclusions that there have been improvements in the performance of financial reporting.

“This is particularly encouraging as this is only the second year of financial reporting under IFRS for local authorities. They should feel justly proud of this achievement,” Mason said.

Bodies also significantly improved the timeliness of the information provided to inform Whole of Government Accounts (WGA).

Auditors aimed to issue the assurance statement on the WGA return by 5 October 2012. They were able to do so at 345 councils (97%), all fire and rescue authorities, 36 police bodies (95%) and all other local government bodies. In 2010/11, auditors at only 74% of principal bodies were able to issue their assurance report by the specified submission date.

“The need for timely and accurate submission to the Whole of Government Accounts process is extremely important, particularly as the government strives to increase efficiency savings and transparency in public sector funding,” Mason said.

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