Councils and police bodies are generally preparing timely accounts
But an increasing number have needed to be amended for material errors and there is a need to critically appraise the use of reserves
The overall quality of accounts produced by audited bodies and submitted for audit has generally remained consistent. However the quality and accuracy of the accounts have deteriorated at a number of bodies.
In his fourth annual report on the accounts of Welsh councils and police bodies, the Auditor General highlights that whilst most completed their accounts on time, in 2013-14, 32 of the 61 bodies (52%) covered by this report, made material adjustments to their accounts following audit. This represented an increase compared to the previous year where it was 18 of 55 (33%). Whilst there are often likely to be minor errors in the accounts presented for audit, material items should be much less common and such a large number undermines the certification process and bring into the questions the quality of the accounts production process.
The Auditor General urges public bodies to pay closer attention to complex accounting areas and ensure they are conducting thorough quality assurance reviews before accounts are certified by audited bodies’ responsible financial officers. This should help to reduce the need for amendments and help them prepare accurate draft accounts and timely supporting working papers so that they are not limiting their ability to close their accounts earlier in future.
Local Government and Police bodies will continue to deal with a period of continuing financial austerity. The report suggests that they need to critically appraise their holding of reserves and where they can do so, factor the use of these reserves into their medium term financial plans in a sustainable manner.
Audited bodies have been unable to improve the timeliness of preparing draft Whole of Government Accounts returns, which remain poor and only two thirds of audited returns were completed by the deadline. This is an area that improvements in timelessness will be required as HM Treasury is seeking to bring the deadlines for this information forward in future years.
Auditor General for Wales, Huw Vaughan Thomas said:
“Completing materially accurate and timely annual accounts is essential if Councils and Police Bodies are to develop robust medium-term financial and service delivery plans to meet the continuing financial challenges ahead”