Action plan drawn up after adverse audit

Rothbury Parish Council noticeboard in the village'Picture Jane Coltman
Rothbury Parish Council noticeboard in the village'Picture Jane Coltman

Parish councillors in Rothbury have drawn up an action plan to respond to the issues and concerns raised in an external audit report for 2014/15.

The matter was discussed at a public meeting last Wednesday, which was held as a requirement of the adverse audit report – sections 11 and 12 of the Audit Commission Act require the council to consider the issues and recommendations, to hold a public meeting and to inform the auditors of the proposed action plan.

As reported by the Gazette last month, external auditors BDO raised a number of issues, related to the clerk’s employment contract; financial regulations and standing orders; quotations; review of internal controls; approval of accounts; agenda items; budget setting; reimbursed expenses; minutes and agendas; and the internal auditor.

At the start of last week’s meeting, members agreed to accept all of the recommendations in the report.

“I have been through them and I think they are a reasonable set of recommendations,” said Coun John Devlin, chairman of the council’s finance committee.

In terms of the action plan, the meeting heard that some of the recommendations have already been implemented, for example, a replacement contract has been drawn up for the clerk and an expenses protocol is now in place.

For others, the council has resolved to ensure it follows the regulations, for example, on getting the requisite number of quotations before purchasing items or services.

New financial regulations and standing orders have been drawn up, based on the NALC (National Association of Local Councils) template, while internal controls in relation to bank reconciliation and the budget now form part of the standard practice at council meetings.

It was reported that an internal audit framework and guidance had been agreed in June 2013, following previous complaints, but was not resissued each year.

The finance committee will discuss the issue further at its next meeting when the framework has been reexamined and the future of the current auditor is clarified.

Later in the evening, at the council’s finance committee, it was revealed that the external audit for year ending March 31, 2015, cost £2,870.

The clerk explained that the auditor had spent 30 hours on it, following issues raised by a parishioner.