Auditors warn East Lothian Council to expect increased bill

Monday June 12th 2023


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Auditors have told East Lothian Council to expect a bigger bill this year after they ruled several of its internal controls were unreliable.

Audit Scotland said it had identified weaknesses in some controls which it would normally rely on as it carried out its annual inspection.

As a result, it said, the external review of the council’s accounts would involve more work for them and potentially a higher fee.

Concerns were raised about system administrators access to accounts and a lack of checks being made on what changes they made when in the system or regular reviews of actions taken.

And auditors criticised the use of staff working in procurement and accounts to change or amend suppliers bank details instead of using an independent worker with no authority to make payments to carry out the administration, saying “this is a common area of attempted fraud”.

They also raised concerns about aa lack of interface between internal feeder systems including payroll, accounts payable and income and the council’s general ledger with some information manually transferred from one to the other increasing the risk of mistakes.

A report by Audit Scotland which will go to the council’s audit and governance committee this week said: “We do not intend to place reliance on these internal controls for our audit of the 2022/23 annual accounts.

“Instead, we will extend our substantive audit testing of income and non-pay expenditure to obtain the required assurance to support our audit opinion.

“This may be chargeable as the audit fee is based on the council having a robust system of internal controls operating effectively throughout the financial year.”

An East Lothian Council spokesperson said a number of the issues raised had been addressed.

They said: “External audit have identified a number of recommendations through their review of the council’s internal control environment which management has accepted.

“Some of these recommendations relate to matters which have now been addressed, with appropriate action being taken to implement the remainder.

“We are committed to working on a positive and pragmatic basis with the new external audit team in order to ensure that they are able gain assurance through their substantive testing, and the final audit fee will be subject to agreement following completion of the audit.”

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