The Smaller Authorities Audit Appointments Ltd (SAAA) met on 1 December to consider its strategy for the next five-year contract period.
On 13 December, it announced that audit contractors have been appointed to provide limited assurance reviews (Annual Governance and Accountability Returns s) for the second tranche of contracts, starting in April 2023. SAAA’s own strategy will cover the performance of those contracts and preparation for future contract rounds.
SLCC members were invited to take part in a short survey on the Annual Governance and Accountability Return (AGAR) Process and Submission, the results of which provided helpful input into a discussion on the sector-facing role of the SAAA, its support for Responsible Financial Officers (RFOs) and smaller authorities, including town and parish councils, in general and what it can do to support the running of limited assurance reviews.
SAAA will develop its thinking and consult further on the proposals discussed at the meeting which include:
- The potential role of SAAA in supporting development of financial good governance of sector generally
- Recognise that the National Audit Office (NAO), Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and others outside the sector change and grow, placing new expectations on SAAA to advocate and represent the sector in discussions with government
- How to provide support for the Joint Panel on Accountability and Governance (JPAG)/proper practices, developing capacity by skilling RFOs, investing in training and development and resources
- Digital first! Widespread support for online web portal for returns. The SLCC AGAR Process and Submission survey achieved 200 responses in short time all broadly supportive of portal development as way forward
- The provision of automated checks and prompts on AGAR completion
- Open up discussions with Audit Wales, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and audit suppliers about technology and techniques that might support and automate the submission of AGARs
- Revisit NAO legal advice on need for physical ‘wet’ signature
Other aspects of the SAAA strategy that will be further developed include:
- Working with the suppliers to ensure that the external audit market is vibrant and sustainable for future rounds of procurement
- Reviewing the SAAA governance arrangements with DLUHC to reflect changes in government and to promote accountability for public expenditure
- Consolidating the SAAA management arrangements and knowledge management to increase resilience and contracting for professional and administrative support