Hertfordshire County Council misses publication deadline for audited accounts
The situation was highlighted to a meeting of the county council’s resources and performance cabinet panel
Officials from Hertfordshire County Council are set to express their ‘significant disappointment’ with auditors Ernst and Young (EY) – following the company’s failure to complete their accounts by the September 30 deadline.
All councils have to publish their audited accounts for the 2020/21 financial year by the end of September.
But Hertfordshire County Council has failed to make the deadline this year – despite earlier assurances by external auditors that the accounts would be ready.
The situation was highlighted to a meeting of the county council’s resources and performance cabinet panel on Friday, October 1, by Labour councillor Cllr Sharon Taylor.
She pointed to a meeting of the audit committee a week earlier, where the external auditors had said the audit of the accounts would be competed on time.
And she stressed that this was not the fault of the county council or its officers – who she said had ‘worked extremely hard’.
Councillors heard that county council officers had, as part of the process, submitted their accounts to EY by the end of June – a month earlier than had been required.
And they were told that auditors had been completing additional work, at the request of the regulator – which had caused some problems in completing the work on time.
Cllr John Graham – who is also chair of the county council’s audit committee – said the delay had been caused by the auditors’ ‘own internal workings’.
He pointed to additional work completed to satisfy themselves and ‘third parties’ – but ‘not necessarily supporting the council to achieve their audit aims’.
And while he said it was right to maintain a relationship with the auditors, he said it was clearly ‘very disappointing’.
He pointed to plans for council officers to draft a letter to the auditors expressing ‘severe disappointment’, that despite assurances they had failed to deliver on the timetable.
And he said he hoped the pressure would then be on them to complete the process – and the signing off of the accounts – as quickly as possible.
Chair of the cabinet panel, executive member for resources and performance Cllr Bob Deering said the council was acknowledged as being “extremely financially sound and well managed".
And he said it was “extremely upsetting” that the auditors are going to be late delivering their final product AND that they told the council ‘so late in the day’.
He said the entire panel was fully supportive of a message being delivered to the auditors that there were extremely disappointed.
Following the meeting the Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted EY.
A response issued by the company said: “While we do not comment on the organisations we audit, we know that audit plays a vital role in underpinning trust and confidence in the public sector.
“Our priority therefore will always be on the delivery of consistent high-quality audits.”