Posted: Thu 21st Sep 2023

“Sterner Conversations Needed as Blaenau Gwent Faces Further Delays in Publishing Accounts” /
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Sep 21st, 2023

“STERNER CONVERSATIONS” are needed with Audit Wales as delays in finalising Blaenau Gwent’s 2021/2022 accounts will inevitably see the council miss the legal deadline for publishing its 2022/2023 accounts.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Governance and Audit committee on Wednesday, September 20 members were given an update on where the process of finalising the 2021/2022 accounts.
Earlier this month a meeting to discuss the issues was cancelled as Audit Wales experienced delays due to staffing issues in finalising the report.
The committee has been advised that it needs to look at and discuss an Audit Wales ISA 260 report – this would detail all the issues that cropped up in the process, before agreeing the accounts.
Finance chief Rhian Hayden said: “The latest update from Audit Wales is that they are expecting to finalise the qualification issue this week and will be in a position to present their final draft ISA 260 to myself and management by next week.”
Ms Hayden said that if Audit Wales “met that deadline” she expected that the committee would receive the report at their next meeting on October 18.
Cllr Wayne Hodgins asked if Audit Wales had explained why the report had not materialised?
He pointed out that no-one from Audit Wales had turned up to the meeting to give the committee the “courtesy” of an explanation.
Ms Hayden said that Richard Harries of Audit Wales had offered to meet with the committee to provide them with more background to explain “the issues they are facing.”
Ms Hayden said: “As far as we’re concerned, we’ve resolved all the queries they had with us a number of weeks ago, the issues have been internal to Audit Wales and the resources they have available currently.”
Ms Hayden added that she “anticipated” that the draft statement of council accounts for 2022/2023 would be in front of the committee in November.
She explained that “realistically” these are unlikely to be signed off before February as it would depend on Audit Wales and their ability to “resource the audit of our account.”
This means that the council will miss the Welsh Government’s December deadline of publishing the accounts.
Ms Hayden said that “appropriate notices” would be published on the council’s website to explain why.
Cllr Hodgins said: “It doesn’t look good for the reputational damage to the authority as the press will report Blaenau Gwent late in producing their statement of accounts again and again and again.
“And that isn’t helpful.”
“I think some sterner conversations need to be had.
“I honestly don’t think it’s fair that our staff are facing the brunt.
“Our authority and councillors are having the flak for reputational damage when it’s someone else’s fault.”
The committee agreed unanimously to the offer of a meeting with Audit Wales before the report hopefully comes to them in October.
The original reason for the delay is related to the significant issue identified by Audit Wales in their report on the audit of accounts going back to 2020/2021.
This explained the need to correct the errors identified in the council’s fixed asset register and historic cost records that resulted in misstatement of the capital adjustment account and revaluation reserve.
A number of adjustments have been identified and these need to be reported to the committee first before approval of the final accounts.
A problem identified by Audit Wales is that the council failed in the past to regularly review the Estimated Useful Life (EUL) of assets. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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