Berwick-upon-Tweed Town Council apologies for audit issues

Berwick-upon-Tweed Town Council has apologised after an external auditor said there was ‘uncertainty’ over account figures in a section of its annual return.
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The Mayor of Berwick upon Tweed, Coun John Robertson, has confirmed the council’s commitment to openness and transparency following the report by Mazars LLP, which also said the Internal Audit report ‘identified significant weaknesses in internal control during 2022/23’.

The issue was first highlighted in The Bridge newsletter.

Although Mazars stopped short of issuing a Public Interest Report and no actual losses of money or property occurred, the local authority has set out what it is doing to try to ensure what went wrong does not happen again.

The Berwick-upon-Tweed Town Council office on Marygate.The Berwick-upon-Tweed Town Council office on Marygate.
The Berwick-upon-Tweed Town Council office on Marygate.
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The Mazars report in relation to the Annual Governance and Accountability Return (AGAR) included the following: “The council was unable to provide a reconciliation between Box 7 (balance carried forward) and Box 8 (total cash). In the absence of a reconciliation there is material uncertainty about the figures in the accounts at Section 2 of the AGAR.”

In a detailed online statement titled ‘audit response’, the council says: “We asked if that decision could be reviewed, were told no, and so missed the deadline for publishing Mazars’s report.

“We’re sorry that happened, and the Town Clerk, as Responsible Financial Officer, takes full responsibility for it.”

In confirming the detailed explanation would be posted online, Coun Robertson added: “It’s absolutely right that we are scrutinised, audited and challenged. It’s our job to respond to those challenges.”

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A full review of the council’s asset register was already underway after issues arose from the disposal of redundant furniture during an office move. The asset register was highlighted by an internal auditor report earlier this year.

The local authority’s social media statement included the following: “Further issues arose when the council did not provide the documentation for the annual return in a format that its external auditors deemed acceptable, leading to delays in the completion of the audit and its publication.

“In turn this led the auditors to report that they were unwilling to accept the annual return as accurate, although they stopped short of issuing a Public Interest Report.

“The council has already reached out to a new firm of internal auditors who specialise in the town/parish council sector.”

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