Integrity, transparency, accountability, and sound financial management are cornerstones of delivering flood and water level management as a modern, well governed, public service. The report from the audit of internal drainage boards’ (IDBs’) annual governance and accountability returns (AGARs) for 2018/19 provides a reassuringly positive reflection on the sector.
Under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, all local government smaller authorities with an annual turnover below £6.5 million are subject to a limited assurance audit regime to communicate their annual financial, operational, and administrative position. It is the principle means through which IDBs are held accountable each year. Auditors are appointed to smaller authorities by the Smaller Authorities’ Audit Appointments Ltd (SAAA). IDBs in England are currently externally audited by PKF Littlejohn LLP under this regime.
SAAA have recently published their Report on the results of Smaller Authority auditors’ work 2018/19. In it they state that of the 113* IDBs in England, 108 IDBs submitted an AGAR for 2018/19, the remaining five certified themselves as exempt. Showing a positive trend, ninety per cent of those IDBs that completed an AGAR received an unqualified opinion, up from 84% for IDBs’ 2017/18 returns. An unqualified opinion is issued where an auditor considers that the annual return meets the specified requirements set.
Where authorities fail to comply with the specified requirements or certain matters come to the auditor’s attention, auditors are required to consider whether they should issue a written statutory recommendation or a public interest report. It is further encouraging that no public interest reports were once again issued to IDBs for 2018/19 returns.
ADA wishes to put on record its thanks to IDBs for their continued focus on accountability and financial management. We encourage all IDBs to use the current circumstances imposed by the coronavirus pandemic to ensure their websites remain as up to date as possible and in line with their respective Publication Schemes.SAAA Report on the results of Smaller Authority auditors’ work 2018/19
In preparing their annual audit returns all Smaller Authorities are required to ensure that the statements were prepared in accordance with “Proper Practices” as set out in Governance and Accountability for Smaller Authorities in England – A Practitioners’ Guide to Proper Practices approved by the Joint Panel on Accountability and Governance (JPAG) to which ADA is a partner on behalf of IDBs.
JPAG have recently published their 2020 edition of this Practitioners’ Guide, which can be downloaded from our Governance & Accountability webpage.
* There are currently 112 IDBs in England, and one internal drainage district administered by the Environment Agency.