Reading Borough Council accounts finally available – two years late and cost an additional £ 1million
Two years after their original expiration, the Reading Borough Council accounts were finally released after an ongoing “painful” saga.
Agents revealed that the 2018/19 accounts were finally approved.
The beleaguered council accounts have been released late for five consecutive years at a cost of more than £ 1million above expected charges, with the latest expense yet to be confirmed.
Read more: The old Reading printing house will be transformed into a bar and food market
The 2019/20 accounts are not yet complete, having passed the deadline a year ago, while the latest accounts – 2020/21 – have now passed the September 31, 2021 deadline.
In April, hopeful board officers said the 2019/20 and 2020/21 accounts are expected to be signed by the end of 2021, paving the way for 2021/22 accounts on time.
But that was then delayed until March 2022 and now the board is refraining from confirming dates.
The EY external auditors have asked the board to undertake a thorough quality assurance assessment of the draft 2019/20 accounts before submitting them rather than focusing on their early publication.
The outcome of this assessment, which has taken place over the past few days, will determine how quickly the 2018/19 draft accounts will be published.
Darren Carter, the board’s finance director, said: “One of the comments I’ve heard in previous committee meetings is how many times we give you a date that we’re going to post things about and then we are missing this date.
“I’m not going to give a date that I can’t meet, so for now, I’m focusing on making sure a statement is secure before it’s delivered to EY.”
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Have any improvements been made?
While delays have not improved, from a 22-month delay in 2016/17 to 24-month delays in 2017/18 and 2018/19, the board’s EY says the time required to audit accounts improved.
It took 33 months of work to complete the 2016/17 account, 24 months for the 2017/18 accounts and 11 months for the 2018/19 accounts.
Meanwhile, qualifications – issues that mean the auditor is unable to give an unqualified or unqualified audit opinion, but can approve the accounts as a whole – have declined significantly, which Maria Grindley says from EY, is “great to see”.
Mr Carter said signing the 2018/19 accounts “felt like a celebration,” but both stressed the importance of maintaining momentum.
What went wrong with the Reading Council accounts?
Accounts are a summary of the financial activity of an organization over a 12 month period.
It must be precise and transparent financial information that gives a true picture of the economic performance and financial stability of the municipality.
They are audited to ensure that they meet these criteria and the accounts must be published in September of each year.
But due to historical failures to maintain good accounting standards and controls, the 2016/17 reports were published two years late, which also delayed the accounts for subsequent years.
The 2016/17 accounts were finally closed in July 2019, while the 2017/18 accounts were closed in October 2020, an even longer period.
The 2018/19 accounts were published on Friday, again two years late.
The council’s accounts had to be qualified due to persistent problems in certain areas, creating further delays.
Some of the more recent delays are in part due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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How much has it cost the board so far?
The 2017/18 Council accounts were approved at the end of October 2020 and the Council has now confirmed that the final fee for the audit of these accounts is £ 420,000 above the normal amount.
Added to EY’s additional £ 600,000 billed to audit the council’s 2016/17 accounts, the first that could not be signed on time – this means the fiasco has already cost the council £ 1.02million .
The 2018/19 accounts will also be above normal fees, but the board has yet to confirm final costs.
The accounts have been published on the Council’s website and can be consulted here.
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