Agenda item

External Audit - Update Closedown Team / EY

(Copy herewithin)


At the Chair’s invitation, the Corporate Accountant introduced the report and explained that since the publication of the 19/20 draft accounts and the recommencement of the audits at the start of November, the team have been working closely with EY. A large volume of information has been collated and handed over to the external auditors, and the online portal created by EY had been effective in helping the team to raise and manage requests. In total, there has been in excess of 400 requests for information raised by EY during the course of the audit since December 2019, of which approximately 70 have been actively worked on by the Integrated Closedown Team, the Finance Business Partnering Team and other specialist teams within the Council. Requests are being actively worked on and returned to EY for review in a timely manner.


The team was currently working hard to complete the fieldwork, and a draft Statement of Accounts for 2018/19 would be updated to encompass the agreed changes. In addition to this, the 19/20 accounts would be updated to reflect the changes made to the 18/19 accounts. The Corporate Account reiterated the close working relationship with EY, and shared that regular meetings were taking place and she maintained that the team were on track with the Statement of Accounts for approval of the Audit Committee in early 2021.


Following on from the Corporate Accountant’s presentation, Steve Clark from EY thanked the Corporate Account and her colleagues for their hard work. He reiterated that the teams were actively working through issues and understood the time pressures with the move to Unitary. He shared that there was a shared plan of action between all those involved with the Statement of Accounts. The Chair thanked Steve Clark for his update and reiterated his thanks for all of those involved for their hard work and efforts. 


The Corporate Account continued presenting the report and summarised the progress of the 19/20 accounts, she explained that the period of public inspection of 6 weeks had finished and they had received no contact from members of the public. She explained that they were waiting to conclude the 18/19 accounts, so that the 19/20 accounts could be updated to reflect these changes before the continuation of the audits. Steve Clark added that familiarisation work would not need to be repeated, and they were aware of the timescales with the closedown of the sovereign Council. They believed that they would not achieve this by March, with the demands of setting up the West Northants Unitary Council. Steve Clark explained that the biggest risk was staff moving into new roles and looking to the future, and this would be a challenge in completing the accounts which would migrate to the Unitary Council.


The Chief Finance Officer assured that EY had been in conversation with the Section 151 Officer of the West Northants Unitary and the current Section 151 Officer of Northamptonshire County Council and it was to his knowledge that a team would be ringfenced to work on finalising the accounts, and keep the momentum and consistency going. He assured that it was common practice for Unitary Council’s to spend their first year closing down from the previous year after the dissolution of the Council.


Members asked if EY had changed their opinion regarding the completion of audits by 31st March 2021. Steve Clark responded that the volume of queries was too high, and the work was challenging for both sides given the tight timescale, meaning it would be too high risk for them to complete by this date and it would be migrated to West Northants to complete.


Members queried the reason for the high volume of queries and asked if there was evidence of mismanagement or fraud, as well as how the reorganisation would work with external auditors. Steve Clark responded that there was no evidence of mismanagement or fraud and there was currently a process being undertaken to appoint the external auditors. The Chief Finance Officer explained that the volume of queries related to the complexity of the Northampton Borough Council accounts, as they held a number of assets and made various transactions. These queries related to areas such as; the pension fund; legislative changes; the Council’s property portfolio; and revenue and benefits.



·       That the Committee noted the progress made with the audit of the draft Statement of Accounts for 2018-19.

·       That the committee noted the current position with the draft Statement of Accounts for 2019-20.

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