Agenda item

External Audit - Audit Findings Report 2019/20


Prior to consideration of this item the Chief Executive introduced the James Howse, the new Executive Director of Finance to the Committee, who expressed that he was very much looking forward to working with the Members and the Committee going forward.


The Engagement Lead for Grant Thornton Members presented the Audit Findings Report 2019/20 from and in doing so the following was highlighted for Members’ attention:


·         It had been reported at the previous meeting of the Committee that Grant Thornton had not been in a position to present the findings at that time however officers had worked hard to finalise the reports for presentation to the Committee. Members were informed that some of the challenges encountered during the audit process were poor quality working papers and an archaic ledger system. Members were advised that some of the issues had been identified during previous audits however with the implementation of the new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system it was hoped that these would no longer be an issue in the future.

·         Covid-19 had, inevitably, had a significant impact on the completion of the Audit, and it had taken longer than anticipated to complete. Members were informed that as a direct result of Covid-19 an Emphasis of Matter paragraph had been included in the Audit Findings Report. It was clarified that this paragraph had not been included in previous Audit Findings reports. Members were advised this was in relation to the valuation of assets belonging to the Council and that all Local Government organisations had received these disclosures.

·         An unqualified audit opinion was proposed by Grant Thornton, subject to the completion of the few outstanding areas that had been identified within the report.

·         The final fee would be discussed with Officers once the audit process had been completed.


The Engagement Manager from Grant Thornton provided further information in respect of the Statutory Recommendation under Section 24 that had been issued in 2018/2019 and reported that there had been significant improvements since then. This was as a result of difficult decisions made by Members and the hard work of officers. It was, however, highlighted to Members that this would need to continue in the future and a cautious approach was advised. As a result of this, it was confirmed that Grant Thornton proposed a qualified ‘except for’ Value for Money conclusion. Members were advised that although steps had been made towards a more balanced position savings still needed to be made for future financial years. In addition to this, the Engagement Manager for Grant Thornton explained that a number of plans and schemes had been examined as part of the Value for Money findings and that generally these were fully developed and the information provided by officers in order for Members to make decisions were reasonable and accurate.


The Chair invited the Head of Finance and Customer Services to comment on the report and the Audit Findings. He thanked Grant Thornton for all of their hard work during the audit process and that any issues that had been highlighted were a fair representation of an audit carried out in difficult circumstances. This was reiterated by the Chief Executive who offered his thanks to Grant Thornton and, in particular, the Head of Finance and Customer Services who had worked exceptionally hard to get the audit completed.


Some Members expressed their concerns about whether enough appropriate resources and skills were available within the Council to produce the quality of information for future audits. The Head of Finance and Customer Services acknowledged that this year had been unprecedented, and a number of projects had been undertaken at the same time as the audit including the implementation of the ERP system and the distribution of the Covid-19 Business Grants. This had resulted in challenges that would need to be addressed in the future in order to carry out the financial close down period.


Members expressed that the lifting of the Section 24 was a great achievement in such a short period of time and that although difficult decisions would have to be made in the future it was a positive outcome after a difficult year.




the Audit Findings Report 2019/20 and the draft letter of representation be approved.

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