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MANCHESTER: Council’s accounts audit delayed by months because of ‘a couple of transactions’

MANCHESTER: Council’s accounts audit delayed by months because of ‘a couple of transactions’

Manchester Town Hall pictured in April 2021. Credit: Google Maps

The annual audit of Manchester council’s accounts has been delayed by months because of a ‘couple of transactions’ being entered incorrectly.

Accountants Mazars were due to sign off the accounts from the last financial year and present its findings to the audit committee at a meeting this week.

But Mazars senior manager Alistair Newall told councillors on Tuesday (November 23) that the audit might not be finalised until February.

Tom Wilkinson, deputy city treasurer at Manchester council, told the committee that the delay had been caused by errors in the accounts.

However, he said the reason for the delay was that a key member of staff had been off work for six weeks with ‘prolonged sickness’ due to a hip operation.

Labour councillor Sarah Russell asked why this mistake had become such a big problem and questioned why it could take another two months to resolve.

She said: “If this is a one-line entry into the accounts, I just don’t understand why this has turned into such a problem.

“I understand a key member of staff was off, but presumably she has deputies.

She added: “You look quite uncomfortable. I don’t understand why. Occasionally things go wrong and accidents happen. That isn’t catastrophic.

“Is this one of those things or is there a fundamental problem here? And if there is a fundamental problem, what is the fundamental problem?”

The deputy city treasurer explained that some payments made to the council on the last day of the financial year did not appear in the final accounts at first.

The local authority noticed the error and reported it to the external auditor.

But the external auditor told the committee that this was not the only issue.

A report by Mazars explained that some queries raised with the town hall and the three external valuers in relation to the valuation of the council’s land, buildings and investment properties have not yet been answered.

These enteries in the accounts involve ‘complex accounting estimates’ and are therefore classified as a ‘significant audit risk’, according to the report.

Once the audit is complete, the audit committee must sign off the accounts.

Newall said he could not assure the committee that the audit would be complete before it meets in January so it may not be signed off until February.

He said: “We’re making progress. I’m hopeful we’ll get to sign off by the end of January.

“Hopefully, if we get good responses to the queries and we’re able to progress the work, then it should be deliverable.”

There are no financial penalties or sanctions if the audited accounts of local authorities are not completed and signed off by the deadline, Newall added.

Words: Joseph Timan, Local Democracy Reporter

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