The number of delayed audit opinions in local government has risen to 40% this year, according to figures compiled by the Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA).
The report found that 210 out of 486 of of audit opinions on 2018/19 statements of accounts were not available by the target date of 31 July 2019, compared with just 17% recorded last year.
The PSAA, who is responsible for 98% of audit for local government, police and fire bodies cited a shortage of “appropriately skilled and experienced auditors” and the standard and timeliness of draft accounts, and/or associated working papers lacking as reasons behind the rise in lateness.
According to the PSSA, delayed opinions can result in inconvenience and disruption, as well as additional costs and reputational damage for all parties.
Tony Crawley, CEO, PSAA, said: “The challenge for all of the parties engaged in the accounts and audit process is to address the need for improvement urgently. The starting point is that accounts and working papers must be prepared to the right standard, and auditors must have sufficient appropriately trained and skilled staff to deliver their opinions wherever possible by the required date.
“ There is also a need to address the more strategic challenges which arise from the current debates about auditing following various widely reported financial failures in the private sector. The response of firms to the current climate and to the recommendations of various inquiries and reviews will undoubtedly impact local audit.”