External auditor report and approval of the 2019/20 Statement of Accounts
Report to follow.
The Chair invited the Interim Director of Finance (Shared Service) to provide an update to the committee. The Interim Director of Finance (Shared Service) advised that the committee had received the draft accounts at the 17 September meeting.
The Interim Director of Finance (Shared Service) explained that as the external audit was not yet finished, delegated authority was being sought for the Chair to sign the Statement of Accounts on behalf of the committee and she advised on the role and responsibilities of the committee, the Chair and herself as the Interim Director of Finance in these circumstances.
Maria Grindley advised that it had been more difficult conducting the audit process due this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic where there had been additional work and a need to look in more depth at issues; for example in relation to going concern standards and the implications of valuations and investments held.
Furthermore, auditors had not been able to sit alongside council staff and engage in such aspects as accessing documents that had caused additional complications. Nevertheless, the two teams were working hard and with progress being made and pushing through in a number of areas.
Jo Taylor went on to explain in detail the main aspects where work was being undertaken to complete the audit, including in respect of:
· Property, plant and equipment.
· Investment property evaluation; such as the Croxley Business Park acquisition.
· Herts pension fund matters.
· Group audit work; such as in relation to the Riverwell Partnership.
· Going concern issues.
In response to a question from members, Ms Taylor explained that it was not possible to state exactly when the audit would be completed but there was a desire to conclude quickly and with the work at the top of their agenda.
Members expressed some disappointment that the accounts may not be signed off in line with the timeframes and asked whether there was a similar situation with other authorities. Ms Grindley explained that they were linking with colleagues up and down the country and that there were similar patterns elsewhere; Watford would not stand out in this regard. They were putting all their efforts in to getting the audit over the line and it should be concluded in the weeks following.
In response to a question from the Chair, Ms Grindley explained that she did not know of an estimate of the number of authorities in a similar situation to Watford but Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA) would be putting together a report with the figures in the coming months.
The Interim Director of Finance (Shared Service) concluded by advising that they would be pushing hard to get matters finalised by 30 November.
1. that the Committee approve the Statement of Accounts for 2019/20 subject to final agreement by the Section 151 Officer (Interim Director of Finance);
2. that the Section 151 Officer be delegated to finalise the Statement of Accounts for 2019/20 in consultation with the members of the Audit Committee;
3. that the Committee authorise and instruct the Chair to sign the Statement of Accounts for 2019/20 once finalised and signed by the Section 151 Officer to confirm that the statement of accounts presents a true and fair view of—(a)the financial position of the authority at the end of the financial year to which it relates; and (b)that authority's income and expenditure for that financial year,
4. and that the Statement of Accounts be published by 30 November 2020
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