The Annual Reporting on Governance and Finance
Every year local authorities have to complete a return which has 4 sections:
- Annual Internal Audit – completed by the Internal Auditor on the basis of an assessment of risk following a selective assessment of compliance with the relevant procedures and controls during the financial year.
- Section 1 – Annual Governance Statement – the Chairman and Clerk acknowledge their responsibilities with reference to financial management, internal controls, risk management, the publics rights, etc.
- Section 2 – Accounting Statements – using broad categories these summarise the year’s financial transactions, the impact on cash balances and movements in fixed assets.
- External Audit Report & Certificate – currently performed by Mazars LLP for Staffordshire Parish Councils.
- An Internal Audit Report – This function is currently performed by Auditing Solutions Ltd.
Recent Annual Governance & Accountability Returns (AGARS)
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Recent Internal Audit Reports
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The Public Rights
Any interested person has the right to inspect Council’s accounts. By law, an individual who is both entitled to and has registered to vote in the local council elections (or their representative) has the additional right to ask the external auditor questions about the accounts or object to an item of account contained within them.
- To Inspect the Accounts – Council has to advertise that the accounts are available for inspection for a specified period of time. The public can inspect and have copies (there may be a charge) of the accounts and relevant documents.
- To Ask the Auditor Questions about the Accounts – These must be about the accounts for the financial year just ended. The auditor does not have to give an opinion on the legality or reasonability of an item.
- To Object to the Accounts – Specifically this relates to the spending of money that Council should not have done and the loss of money (deliberately or irresponsibly). The individual can ask the auditor to make an application to the Courts for a declaration that the item is contrary to law”. This is done by sending a formal Notice of Objection to the Auditor. It is done in writing and copied to the Council. It tells the auditing what the objection is about and what action should be taken. The auditor reaches a decision which can be appealed to the Courts.
Using the same process the Auditor can be asked to discuss with council or make a Public Interest Report on an item in the accounts. Again the Auditor makes the decision to act or not. They may or may not disclose their reason and there is no right of appeal.
Council (and so local tax payers) will meet the costs of such objections and questions. The decision to take such enquiries forward will include consideration of \whether it is in the public interest to do so and the costs to be incurred in taking the matter further. An appeal to the Courts could have to be paid for by the applicant.