I sit on PASC (Performance and Audit Scrutiny Committee) which looks at the financial aspects of West Suffolk Council. One thing is sure is that all the papers are good and thick and full of financial information. Sad to say but I enjoy pouring over them looking for trends, errors and successes. PASC is responsible to the full council for making sure all is above board and that monies are being spent correctly.
I am pleased to say the internal financial team, at West Suffolk Council, appear to be top notch. We have set a balanced budget, which is important, and appear to be hitting all the targets.
To help our financial team and to comply with financial regulations we employ Ernst and Young as external auditors. I wish I was as happy with them as I am with our internal team. It’s not the quality of the audit that concerns me rather than the timing of when it was done. It is very late which is unacceptable. If things are wrong we need to find out about them as soon as possible not months later.
The good news is the audit is just about finished and West Suffolk Council has been given a clean bill of health so far. Congratulations to the West Suffolk finance team. However, I was told that auditors being late is happening across the country in the public sector. The “big four” accountants control the market and are struggling for staff apparently.
Only 12% of audits are done on time it seems. I understand that it is more complicated than just a staff issue. It seems that when a council is found to be poorly run then audit teams descend on them which starves other well run councils, like West Suffolk, from audit resource.
I understand this but it is just not good enough. We pay a considerable fee for the service and are entitled to receive the service we pay for.
At the very least this issue needs to be highlighted to government and to those who control auditing nationwide. I did not want it to just pass without my concerns being noted formally. I proposed an addition, to the recommendations that we vote on, to include calling on the council to formally write to the auditors and their regulators detailing our frustration and concerns. This was passed unanimously.
I hope things improve.