Dramatic rise in delayed local government audit opinions

“Urgent improvement” is needed after a sharp rise in delayed audit opinions in local government, said the organisation that appoints auditors to 98% of council, police and fire authorities.

More than 40% of audit opinions (210 out of 486) on 2018-19 statements of accounts missed the target date of 31 July, figures released today from Public Sector Audit Appointments showed. Last year, just 13% were not available by the target date.

Tony Crawley, Public Sector Audit Appointments’ chief executive, suggested the rise was because of a lack of skills and poorly filled out paperwork.

“The challenge for all of the parties engaged in the accounts and audit process is to address the need for improvement urgently,” he said.

Accounts and working papers needed to be “prepared to the right standard”, Crawley explained, and auditors should have “sufficient appropriately trained and skilled staff”.

He added PSAA “looks forward” to working with the government on its review of the local audit system, which is expected to include the timeliness of audit opinions within its scope.

Crawley added: “There is also a need to address the more strategic challenges which arise from the current debates about auditing following various widely reported financial failures in the private sector.”

Although the deadline date for audit opinions is not statutory, auditors and audited organisations strive to meet it when possible, and bodies that do not do so must issue a statement explaining why they were unable to. …”