• Register
Return to: Home > News > Advisory > Increasing delays in UK local government audits

Increasing delays in UK local government audits

The number of delayed audit opinions in local government has risen sharply this year. Figures compiled by Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA) , the body responsible for appointing auditors to 98% of local government, police and fire bodies, show that more than 40% (210 out of 486) of audit opinions on 2018/19 statements of accounts were not available by the target date of 31 July 2019.

The comparable position in relation to 2017/18 accounts was that approximately 13% of opinions were not available by the target date. A number of factors have driven this deterioration in performance, posing challenges for both auditors and audited bodies.

The target date has been missed in some cases because of a shortage of appropriately skilled and experienced auditors. In others the standard and timeliness of draft accounts, and/or associated working papers, has been lacking.

Other delayed opinions arise from difficulties in obtaining responses to and resolving audit queries, and unresolved technical issues including matters arising within group accounts. In a relatively small number of cases 2018/19 opinions are delayed by the fact that prior year accounts await sign off. While the 31 July target date is not a statutory deadline for audit, the increase in the number of audit opinions not given by the target is a significant concern.

Delayed opinions can result in significant inconvenience and disruption, as well as additional costs and reputational damage for all parties. However, auditors have a professional duty only to give the opinion when they have sufficient assurance. Bodies that do not publish their audited accounts by 31 July are required by the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 to issue a statement explaining why they are unable to do so.

Tony Crawley, PSAA’s Chief Executive, said: “The challenge for all of the parties engaged in the accounts and audit process is to address the need for improvement urgently. The starting point is that accounts and working papers must be prepared to the right standard, and auditors must have sufficient appropriately trained and skilled staff to deliver their opinions wherever possible by the required date. 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. The response of firms to the current climate and to the recommendations of various inquiries and reviews will undoubtedly impact local audit. The issues need to be worked through and solutions implemented which will ensure a sustainable supply of audit services for the long term.”

Top Content

    South Africa: sensing new opportunities

    It has been an interesting couple of years for the profession in South Africa. A number of high-profile scandals have brought the profession and the role of auditors into sharp public focus, brewing a distrust towards accountants and a large expectations gap. Joe Pickard reports.

    read more

    Ghana: a quest for consistency

    Ghana’s current economic profile would suggest a fertile landscape for purveyors of accounting services. But inconsistent approaches to compliance and application of standards – coupled with problems in the banking sector and consequent liquidity constraints – have created a challenging environment. Paul Golden writes.

    read more

    Drone technology: audit takes to the skies

    The movement towards a digitised era has already impacted the auditing profession in a number of ways, from blockchain to artificial intelligence. Now firms are taking to sky and using drone technology in their audits. Mishelle Thurai speaks to Big Four firms to find out more.

    read more

    SBC: a new alliance joins the market

    Jonathan Minter speaks to Paul Tutin, chair of founding firm Streets Chartered Accountants, about why the business and its European partners took the decision to launch their own association.

    read more
Privacy Policy

We have updated our privacy policy. In the latest update it explains what cookies are and how we use them on our site. To learn more about cookies and their benefits, please view our privacy policy. Please be aware that parts of this site will not function correctly if you disable cookies. By continuing to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy unless you have disabled them.