The Internal Auditor submitted a report which provided the Audit and Risk committee with a further update on developments in local (external) audit arrangements that were associated with the Committee’s responsibilities.
Neil Jones, HoIAS presented the report and noted the following:
· The report was the fourth brought to Committee, the timeline of which was highlighted in paragraphs 4-6 in the report and included information on the transparency of local audit reporting otherwise known as the Redmond Review.
· The report noted that in May 2021, the Government published an update containing its plans for further implementing the Redmond recommendations.
· Most importantly was the Government’s proposal that the system leadership for local audit leadership for external audit would be best placed with the yet to be established Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority (ARGA) which would replace the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) rather than a new arms-length body that Redmond recommended.
· The Government foresaw further safeguards, and redistribution of responsibilities were proposed, but the arrangements for procurement and contract management for local audit would remain with the Public Sector Audit Appointments Ltd (PSAA) with commercial support from MHCLG.
· There would be public consultation on the proposals before the Government’s summer recess.
· There were two further MHCLG consultations outlined in paragraph 13 to the report, the outcomes of which were awaited.
· The Government’s proposals had been mostly welcomed by stakeholders, but views on available skills, capacity on costs of local audit remained guarded.
· The next round of procurement for external audits commencing from financial year 2023/24 were now beginning to be planned. The City Council had previously opted for the PSAA-led procurement. As part of its planning the PSAA had been consulting on its prospectus, and it was PSAA’s view that the market would remain relatively unstable and difficult to predict for some time.
· The prospectus included plans to adjust the procurement ratio between quality and costs from an equal 50:50 to 80:20 ratio. There was some nervousness in local government in that whilst quality was clearly important, costs must not be excessive. Consultation on the prospectus closed on 8th July and the Deputy Director of Finance had provided comment.
· Since the report was compiled, on the 14th July, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) launched a report titled, ‘Local auditor reporting on local government in England’. The report was scathing of the Government saying that:
· The PAC had questioned whether the “pressing” need for new system leadership in local public audit, identified in the Redmond Review, would actually be met by Government’s proposal for a future ARGA which would not be set up until 2023 at the earliest, i.e. more ... view the full minutes text for item 15