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0 votes
External auditors are refusing to complete our audit as a result of correspondence (apparently we are not allowed to see the correspondence), but the previous interim clerk told us all was well.
This seems to not be the case at all.

Any advice would be appreciated, especially how do we escalate up the chain of authority?
by (230 points)

5 Answers

0 votes
As the clerk is normally an employee of the council they are therefore bound by their contract of employment conditions which should specify their duties and expected attainment requirements. This would be checked and assessed at specified assessments during the annual period of their employment.
You state that this was an interim clerk position. Who supplied the clerk and under who's instruction and  terms of employment were they hired ( assuming as a stop gap)? Was it via the local county NALC office or on a recommendation from them? Unlikely that you would drag someone off the street to act on behalf of the council.

You do not say who is refusing ( and on what grounds) to supply the correspondence. Employed directly or hired on merit the clerk is working on behalf of and for the council and as such must obey the councils requests for information regarding their duty execution on behalf of the council.
by (26.5k points)
0 votes
The letter from the external auditor will be addressed to the council and the council can therefore demand to see it.  End of.
by (9.9k points)
Our financial reg say the RFO shall without undue delay bring to the attention of all councillors any correspondence or report from internal or external auditors
0 votes
Your question / statement is too vague.

Are you saying the EA has told you there is an external challenge and they won't tell you what it is or are you saying your current clerk won't show you the correspondence either (a) from the EA to the PC or (b) that which creates the external challenge.

It's impossible to know what the question is as currently presented so the only advice I would suggest is - re-phrase your question.

On a side note, until there is clarity (likely even if there is clarity) there won't be a "chain" you can escalate up through.

The PC employs the clerk so there is no escalation there

The PC supplies the AGAR to the EA and is entirely responsible for its own actions so there is no escalation there.
by (19.8k points)
0 votes
Clearly I have no knowledge of your particular circumstances but given that we are now at 30th September, when external auditors must complete their audit so that appropriate conclusion of audit notices can be published on websites and notice boards for town and parish councils, I'd say that things are not always as they may seem.   Maybe you need to clarify the situation with your current (and I assume) new clerk.

Firstly, clerks around the country are bemoaning the fact that despite having documentation since May onwards, external auditors may not have completed their work yet.  It's a perennial issue that the industry needs to address but as a rule, external auditors will try to justify not completing their work and must produce an interim statement that can be published by close of business today.  The reason their work hasn't been completed I'm not going to guess but sheer volume of work coupled with possibly inexperienced students being used (as many clerks will suggest) can lead to queries being raised by the EA which may be justified or sometimes not.  Are the auditors "refusing" to complete or are they saying they've not had a response or a response they deem adequate?  Auditors generally don't "refuse".  They may issue a qualified report if they're unhappy with what they've found; they don't and, I'd suggest can't, "refuse".
When your interim clerk said that things were well, he/she may well have assumed that to be the case at the time.  Unless you ask, you are simply guessing.  For my own council, the AGAR and supporting papers were sent off in early May but it was only last week that we had our conclusion of audit notice with no queries raised.  If a query was raised I can't help thinking it would not be concluded by now.
Before blaming anyone (auditor or clerk), I'd check the facts.
by (18.5k points)
0 votes
By chance i stumbled upon this random Town Council where the situation appears very similar to your own.

https://www.morecambe.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/LA0142-IS3.pdf

So maybe it is quite a common thing. If the auditor receives correspondence they take a bit longer to complete the audit. From this example the actual audit of the AGAR appears to be satisfactory, so maybe your clerk was correct in what they said. Of course they would be unaware of correspondence with the auditor unless the auditor told them.

I don't think that there is anything that you need to do at this stage. Just wait for the auditor to complete their work.
by (4.1k points)

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