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Agenda item

Annual Accounts 2018/19 Update


The Interim Head of Finance introduced his report updating the Committee on the completion of the external audit of the Council’s 2018/19 Statement of Accounts and setting out the External Auditor’s updated Audit Findings Report.  It was noted that:


·  An unqualified audit opinion on the Accounts was issued by Grant Thornton (the External Auditor) on 16 August 2019.  As the date of issue was beyond the statutory publication deadline of 31 July 2019, full compliance with the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 was not possible.  The primary reason for the late opinion was the exceptional resourcing pressures experienced by the External Auditor.  The circumstances that led to the delayed opinion were not unique to Maidstone with the professional press reporting that over 40% of opinions missed the deadline nationally this year.


·  The updated Audit Findings Report identified two adjustments to the financial statements that resulted in a £3,531,000 adjustment to the Comprehensive Income and Expenditure Statement, but there was no impact on the General Fund outturn.


In response to questions, the Director of Finance and Business Improvement advised the Committee that:


·  At the meeting of the Committee held on 30 July 2019, the representative of the External Auditor said that it was anticipated that the audit opinion would be issued the following day.  In his view, the External Auditor had underestimated the amount of work they still needed to do and it was very disappointing that it had taken until 16 August 2019 to conclude the outstanding audit work and issue an opinion.  It would be reasonable for Members to challenge the representatives of Grant Thornton who would be present at the next meeting as to the reasons for the delay.


·  He did not think there was anything the Council could have done because it had acted in good faith based on what the External Auditor had said.  There was a wider issue which had been addressed in the local government press that auditors, not just Grant Thornton, who had been auditing local authorities had struggled to deliver audits with the reduced fees they were now charging.  The Council would be seeking assurances from Grant Thornton that this situation would not occur next year.


·  The Council had not been charged any additional audit fees in connection with the delayed opinion.


·  From a client perspective, going forward, it was necessary to have a reliable set of accounts ready for the External Auditor to look at, to obtain a firm commitment from the External Auditor on the timing of the audit and to allow sufficient time before 31 July for proper consideration by the Committee.


·  A full actuarial valuation of the Pension Fund was required every three years.  The latest full actuarial valuation was completed in 2016 so a full actuarial valuation would be taking place this year.


Members indicated that they wished to ask questions of representatives of the External Auditor relating to the delay in issuing the audit opinion.


RESOLVED:  That the External Auditor’s updated Audit Findings Report, attached as Appendix 1 to the report of the Interim Head of Finance, be noted.


Supporting documents: