Monday, December 5, 2011

HDC still racing to get its accounts approved

The accounts must be approved by 30th September of each year. This year HDC has missed the deadline and has done so by a wide margin. The accounts and annexes are down as "To Follow".

In the report from the Auditors to the Council the following is said about the delay:

We therefore propose to include a report be exception following our vfm conclusion for 2010/11 to confirm that we have identified significant weaknesses in the Council’s arrangements for ensuring reliable and timely financial reporting that meets the needs of internal users, stakeholders and local people, as a result of the delay.

The report goes into detail:

However, the authority was not able to provide us with a comprehensive set of supporting working papers at the start of our audit. There are a number of reasons for this including:
  • The Council’s capital accountant was absent on the grounds of ill health, and other finance staff had difficulty interpreting and understanding elements of capital accounting and capital financing information. 
  • The Council underestimated the level of resource required to do the IFRS restatements and produce the 2010/11 financial statements and the restated 2009/10 and 2008/09 information. 
  • As new auditors it was always expected that we would not have the same degree of knowledge of the specific circumstances of the Council as an incumbent, however, the Council underestimated the number of questions and supporting information that we would require to support the accounts. 
This has had a knock on effect of our audit, resulting in working papers that did not agree to the accounts and significant gaps in the information provided to us, predominately in relation to capital accounting.
During the audit the finance team has on occasion, struggled to provide sufficient relevant and reliable information to us in respect of the Council’s leases, capital accounting and other elements of the accounts.

Yet the Capital accountant was one of those being made redundant!

The report still goes on:

As of 28 November 2011 we are still waiting on information from the Council to enable us to complete our audit. We will provide a full verbal update to the Panel when we meet with you on 7 December 2011.

An interesting bit:

Leisure Centres

Our review of leases identified that the five leisure centres included on the Council’s balance sheet are held under management agreements. These agreements indicate that the assets are jointly controlled assets between the Council and Cambridgeshire County Council. The Council has prepared an assessment of the proportion of the assets attributable to the County Council based on capital investment in the assets since they were built. At the date of writing this report management were still in the process of making the necessary adjustments to the financial statements.

Initial calculations expect this to impact the cost of the assets on the balance sheet by decreasing their value by approximately £1.5 million - £2 million (£19.8 million total assets).

From the Auditors report I can surmise HDC were unprepared for the new IFRS accounting standards. Even though the Capital Accountant was ill and was subsequently made redundant this was a problem that HDC management should have managed. If there are not the right people to do the job then find someone who can. It is not as though the auditors just turned up unexpectedly. In the report the auditors state:

Following discussions with management following our appointment as external auditors we performed early audit work in February and March 2011 on the restatement of the prior year comparative information. At that time the evidence available to support the Council’s work to date on the IFRS conversion was not sufficient to enable us to carry out detailed audit procedures. We provided an assessment focussing on the key areas of the conversion and discussed this with Management in April 2011 who continued to work on the transition process.

So the Council's Management knew back in April 2011 there was trouble, though had an idea in February/March 2011. Yet as far as I can see the Management did little to resolve this situation so the accounts could be presented by the deadline of 30th September 2011.

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