Dan Peters 08 December 2022

Worsening audit backlog revealed

Worsening audit backlog revealed image
Image: echoevg/Shutterstock.com

Councils are making decisions, managing multiple financial challenges and planning for the future with ‘limited assurance about their underlying financial positions,’ the chair of Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA) has warned.

Steve Freer spoke as new figures showed a worsening backlog, with more than 630 audit opinions currently late after fewer than 60 (12%) of local government bodies’ 2021-22 audit opinions were given by the end of November deadline.

The 12% figure was slightly higher than last year’s 9%, but this year’s publishing date is two months later, and it remains much lower than previous years, with 57% of audit opinions given by the July 2019 deadline and 45% given by the November 2020 deadline.

PSAA chair Steve Freer said: ‘The scale of the backlog of outstanding opinions is such that it is beginning to seriously undermine the financial management, governance and accountability of local government bodies.

‘As 2023 approaches more than 160 bodies are still awaiting audit opinions for both 2020-21 and 2021-22 and for some even earlier years.

'As a result they are making decisions, managing multiple financial challenges and laying plans for the future with limited assurance about their underlying financial positions.

‘The local audit system desperately needs to find a way of clearing the backlog and restoring the norm of timely opinions as quickly as possible.’

Many of the challenges facing local government audit were previously highlighted by Sir Tony Redmond’s review in September 2020.

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