Welsh auditor general finds ‘deteriorating’ accounting performance

2 Feb 15

There has been a deterioration on the quality and accuracy of accounts produced by some local authorities in Wales, the auditor general has said.

In his fourth annual report on the accounts of Welsh councils and police bodies, Huw Vaughan Thomas said most bodies completed their accounts on time in 2013/14, but half (32 of 61) the bodies covered by the report made material adjustments following audit. The was an increased on the previous year, when only a third of bodies needed to materially adjust their accounts.

The Wales Audit Office said material adjustments should not be a common occurrence, and a large number of such changes ‘undermines the certification process and brings into question the quality of the accounts production process’.

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.’

In particular, the auditor general urged public bodies to pay closer attention to complex accounting areas and ensure accounts go through a quality assurance review before they are certified by responsible financial officers.

The report also urged public bodies in Wales to review their reserves, factoring in use of reserves to their medium-term financial plans in a sustainable manner.

In addition, the timeliness of preparing draft Whole of Government Accounts returns was criticised as ‘poor’. Only two-thirds of returns were completed by the deadline, the WAO said, noting that this would need to improve as the Treasury plans to bring the deadline forward in future years.

The report summarises the WAO’s work at Wales’ 22 unitary authorities, four police authorities, three fire and rescue authorities and three National Park Authorities, along with their pension funds and joint committees.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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