Report of the Executive Manager – Finance and Corporate Services
David Hoose, from Mazars presented the Council’s statutory Statement of Accounts for the Financial Year 2019/20, provided in Appendix A, along with the Management Representation letter in Appendix C, which were attached to the report for the Group to consider. Mr Hoose advised the Group that there are particular issues linked with Covid-19 which may result in the Statement of Accounts being altered after this Governance Scrutiny Group meeting, or a delay in the final audit report. This is due to delays in the outcome of the pension fund audit, which feeds into all Nottinghamshire authorities accounts with Nottinghamshire County Council being the accountable body.
Mr Hoose continued to outline the status of the audit, which is substantially complete at the time of issuing this report. The Statement of Accounts 2019/20 provided as Appendix B was included as a separate document for the Group to consider. His includes the Council’s Annual Governance Statement which in line with best practise has been agreed with the Leader and Chief Executive and was approved by Governance Scrutiny Group on 30 July 2020. Mr Hoose reported minor changes largely updating some of the values linked to the impact of Covid-19.
Mr Hoose explained that the closure of accounts process has been more complex this year, particularly with the impact on resources as a result of Covid-19 and advised that the deadline for the certification of the accounts has been extended.
Mr Hoose advised that there had been an increase to the level of review work undertaken on the defined benefit pensions and at the time of writing the Pension Fund auditor had not yet finalised their conclusion and that the Management Representation Letter and accounts may need to be updated. The Chair, Cllr Purdue-Horan requested the Groups approval that should there be the need to make any amendments or disclosures that this be delegated to the Chair (or Vice Chair of Governance Scrutiny in his absence) and the S151 Officer. The Group were asked to note that there was a risk that the final auditors report would not be approved by 30 November 2020.
In concluding Mr Hoose informed the Group that the Council provided value for money and had proper arrangements in place to ensure it took informed decisions and deployed resources to achieve planned and sustainable outcomes for taxpayers and local residents.
Councillor Moore – Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Finance added that finance officers had worked incredibly hard under very exceptional circumstances.
Members raised specific questions relating to an unadjusted misstatement in respect of Covid-19 funding and requested an explanation. The Financial Services Manager explained that this was in relation to the first tranche of Covid-19 funding that although expected on 1 April 2020 was actually received on 31 March 2020. The Council’s rationale for not reflecting the income in the 2019/20 accounts is that the impact of Covid-19 has been far more significant in 2020/21.
Members asked a specific question in respect of the audit fees increase due to additional work and involved additional testing. The Executive Manager – Finance and Corporate Services advised that he would be writing separately to the Public Sector Audit Appojntments (PSAA) and Mazars the Council’s auditors regarding his concerns raised during the audit, particularly over what is considered to be excessive sample testing.
It was RESOLVED that:
a) The findings of Mazars Audit Completion Report (Appendix A) be approved prior to the approval of the Statement of Accounts
b) The Group approve the Statement of Accounts for 2019/20 including the Annual Governance Statement (Appendix B) subject to the outcome of the Nottinghamshire County Council Pension Fund audit.
c) The Group approve the Management Representation letter (Appendix C) subject to the outcome of the Nottinghamshire County Council Pension Fund audit
d) The Group approve that the Chair of Governance Scrutiny Group and S151 officer have delegated authority for the final approval of the Statement of Accounts for 2019/20 and approve any changes to the Management Representation letter, subject to a satisfactory outcome of the Nottinghamshire County Council Pension Fund audit, (notifying members of the Governance Scrutiny Group of any significant issues if required).