Last post sounds for Audit Commission as it bequeaths further savings

THE AUDIT COMMISSION’S likely epitaph looks set to be centred on its legacy of reduced audit fees, following its announcement that it has secured a further £30m in predicted savings for local public bodies between 2015 and 2017.

That’s the lowest level since it was tasked with tackling the NHS audit in 1990 by John Major’s Conservative government.

Chairman of the Audit Commission, Jeremy Newman, said: “We have driven down prices for audit services, showing again that bulk procurement is the best way to maintain a competitive market and provide taxpayers with value for money. The resulting savings are part of the legacy the commission will leave after March 2015, and will be enjoyed by local authorities and NHS bodies for years after our closure.

“Fees should be preserved at this level for 2016/17 and we hope the government will take the opportunity we have secured to lock in and extend the savings we have achieved up to 2020.”

It also said it was returning £6m to the bodies it has audited, in addition to the £8m it handed back in March, a direct result of its “efficient management of the commission’s closure”.

And the commission predicts that should the government extend both the 2012 and 2014 contracts to 2020, to lock in the lower fees, the saving to audited bodies from 2012 would be £440m.

The arrangement to redistribute the work of the Audit Commission, and transferring commission staff into the successor bodies, is well underway, ready for its ultimate demise in March 2015.

From 1 April 2015 an independent company set up by the Local Government Association, the Public Sector Audit Appointments Limited (PSAA), will oversee the commission’s audit contracts until they end in 2017 (or 2020 if extended by the Department for Communities and Local Government).

PSAA’s responsibilities will include setting fees, appointing auditors and monitoring the quality of auditors’ work. It will also oversee making arrangements for housing benefit subsidy certification and for publishing the commission’s Value for Money Profiles tool.

Further Balkanisation of the commission will see its responsibilities for publishing the statutory Code of Audit Practice, guidance for auditors and local value for money studies picked up by the National Audit Office, while the responsibility for the National Fraud Initiative and for the Commission’s counter-fraud function will transfer to the Cabinet Office and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.

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