Concerns raised over delays auditing Northumberland County Council's accounts
Northumberland County Council’s formal financial report for 2019-2020 has yet to be externally audited and released, a meeting has heard.
Usually, council audits must be completed by March 31 every year.
Councillor Lynne Grimshaw asked why 2020-2021 accounts were being drawn up when the previous financial year’s accounts had yet to be published or audited at a meeting of the council’s Audit Committee on March 24.
Jan Willis, interim director of finance for the authority, confirmed that the reports had not yet been externally audited.
He said: “It is a rather unusual position to be embarking on the production of one set of accounts when you have not finished the previous years accounts, but that is the position we are in, Councillor Grimshaw”.
The committee was reminded that this meeting of the Audit Committee was to set up a timetable for the production of and publishing of this year’s financial report.
Cameron Waddell, a senior auditor from Mazars, also responded saying that as per regulations the councils draft accounts from 2019-2020 were available on the council’s website.
Mr Waddell continued: “Due to the pandemic and various other factors, at the end of November last year, which was the deadline 55% of local public audits missed.”
He said around 30% to 40% are still outstanding, “so Northumberland is not particularly unusual in that regard”.
The council’s statement of accounts states explains the external audit is late “due to ongoing investigations that they have deemed may have an impact on the financial statements and Annual Governance Statement.”
The statement also claims “this situation is allowed for by Regulation 10, paragraph (2a) of the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 as amended by the Accounts and Audit (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020”.
According to a Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government paper published on December 17, 2020: “A robust local audit system and transparent local authority financial reporting are key to delivering value for money for taxpayers, and for sustaining public confidence in our systems of local democracy”.