Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Let's learn to use the local authority auditor

Taxpayers are, or should be, considerably interested in  the work and opinions of the auditors of their local authorities and all other public bodies.

It is intended but not generally realised that assurance is given on value for money and resource utilization as well as the annual accounts.

This process is currently rendered largely wasted because (a) the financial statements are mired in detail and late, and of (b) bureaucratic language.  Similarly the value for money judgements when written up by auditors are  unintelligable to the lay reader and do not extend beyond  whether suitable arrangements are in place - not whether achieving.

In 2012 the Audit Commission is to be scrapped leaving the ‘market’ open for  privatisation but in ways that have not yet been worked out. At the same time there is to be the gradual decentralisation of public activity eg Private Health Trusts giving way to GP groups.  For example there are now some 11,000 such organisations accounting for some £200bn of public funds, some so small such as parish councils as not to feature even in their own minds as needing to account for our money.

We should be very concerned that developments do not weaken still further our ability to keep tabs on our money in a proper businesslike environment. We are also as a nation moving into a situation which in Europe has caused the accounts there to be failed by the Court of Auditors for 14 years. How will the first ever UK government consolidated Accounts, for 2009-10, fare when they see the light of day at the end of 2011 ?

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