Council Votes to Disagree with Auditor

At an emergency Alverdiscott and Huntshaw Parish Council meeting, held online on Monday 28th September, councillors voted 4 against 2 to not accept assessments carried out by an internal auditor.

The council had already been granted an extension until the 30th of September, from the deadline of the 30th of July, to complete an internal audit and submit all required documentation.

The audit had arisen because this council was issued with public interest reports for the years 2017/18 and 2018/19 due to failing to submit annual governance and accountability returns in those years.

This resulted in charges of £1,152 in fees/costs from PKF Littlejohn chartered accountants. Also, since the council failed to submit the required documentation for exemption from external audit an additional charge of £200 was incurred.

The council was warned by the internal auditor that it was not possible to tick all of the ‘yes’ boxes. Here’s a copy of the report.

internal audit report 2019 2020
Alverdiscott and Huntshaw Parish Council Internal Audit Report 2019 / 2020.

As shown the auditor was forced to tick ‘No’ for objective C: This authority assessed the significant risks to achieving its objectives and reviewed the adequacy of arrangements to manage these.

The internal auditor provided the council with this warning:

“With regard to Section 1 the Annual Governance Statement which must be read out to all councillors at the next meeting and agreed. You may have difficulties in ticking the “yes” boxes on this form. This has to be signed by the clerk and chair with the date of the meeting and minute reference number.”

Alverdiscott & Huntshaw Parish Council Internal Auditor – 2020.

As required, at the meeting on the 28th of September each question from Section 1 of the Annual Governance Statement was read out and the 6 councillors present at the meeting were given the opportunity to respond.

annual governance statement 2019/20.
Section 1 – Annual Governance Statement 2019/20

Statement #5 on this form reads:

  1. We carried out an assessment of the risks facing this
    authority and took appropriate steps to manage those
    risks, including the introduction of internal controls and/or
    external insurance cover where required

As the document states:
“Yes’ means that this authority: considered and documented the financial and other risks it faces and dealt with them properly.”

The councillors present voted 4 to 2 to answer ‘yes’, which contradicts the internal auditor’s assessment. Councillors who voted yes were acting chairman Millar, cllr. Staines, cllr. Ley and cllr. Easterbrook while councillors Bolton and Goldstone agreed with the internal auditor’s assessment and voted ‘No’ to this statement as it could not be agreed.

It’s important to note that the Alverdiscott and Huntshaw Parish Council used a pre-signed blank cheque to pay the £1,152 in fees and costs from PKF Littlejohn in July 2020. The use of blank cheques undermines the double-signatory process and highlights how this council has failed to identify risks and failed to address them. So why did councillors’ vote ‘yes’ to agree with this statement?

A Freedom of Information Request will be submitted to the council to get copies of the documentation that councillors have, in a public meeting, declared that they have seen.