London Borough of Waltham Forest: the local authority that can’t even finalise its annual accounts (2)

Mystery continues about the fate of LBWF’s 2018-19 externally audited annual accounts.

As a previous post outlined, these were due on 31 July 2019, so that they could be signed off by the Audit and Governance Committee, but the auditor, Ernst and Young LLP, was tardy in starting work; then became entangled in ‘historical audit issues‘, possibly dating to as far back as 2007; and in the end was forced to move the completion date forward to September, with the delay and extra work estimated to cost an extra £140,000.

However, when the Audit and Governance Committee met on 26 September 2019, there was still no progress, and so it was agreed that ‘a special meeting of the Committee be arranged towards the end of November 2019 to approve the accounts’.

Yet November came and went, and nothing happened.

Moreover, when the Audit and Governance Committee did next meet, in mid-January 2020, discussion of the audited annual accounts, the draft minutes show, was perfunctory, and limited to a brief exchange about how LBWF should report its problems to the national oversight body responsible for maintaining accounting standards, Public Sector Audit Appointments:

‘Regarding the update on the external audit of accounts 2018/19, the Committee noted a response from the [LBWF] Director of Financial Services which discussed the historical audit issues EY had picked up on. The Committee queried what should be done regarding feeding back to Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSSA) regarding said issues and concerns, especially surrounding costs. Gemma Young, [LBWF] Assistant Director – Internal Audit & Anti-Fraud Shared, suggested putting concerns in a letter to the PSSA as it was an issue of quality of standards and should be addressed’.

And that, so far, is largely where the story ends. All that can be said is that an Audit and Governance Committee meeting planned for 26 February 2020 was cancelled without explanation, while COVID-19 subsequently has done for this issue and of course everything else.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Town Hall business resumes.

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London Borough of Waltham Forest: the local authority that can’t even finalise its annual accounts (1)