ICAEW has welcomed the Audit Wales’ plans to centre its work programme around the three key themes of “a changing world”, “the ongoing pandemic” and “transforming service delivery” in its response to the consultation on the Auditor General for Wales’ work programme.
The Auditor General for Wales leads the Wales Audit Office and, collectively, they are known as Audit Wales, which is responsible for the external audit of the majority of public sector bodies in Wales, including central and local government. In addition to the statutory financial audit, Audit Wales also carries out a programme of discretionary performance audit and other work to hold Welsh public sector bodies to account. It is this work that is the subject of this consultation.
ICAEW’s response highlights the valuable contribution that Audit Wales’ non financial-audit work plays, such as the 15 important recommendations in a 2020 report on public sector fraud. ICAEW urges Audit Wales to build on this work, including by following up how effectively these recommendations have been implemented.
In addition, the response supports Audit Wales’ intention to build on its work on auditing the pandemic response by looking at NHS waiting list backlogs, the financial resilience of the social care sector and efforts to catch up on lost learning in schools. ICAEW also recommends that Audit Wales assess the management of COVID-19 business support grants because there will be useful lessons for both the Welsh and UK governments in how grant funding is delivered through local authorities in the future.
This recommendation is part of a theme throughout ICAEW’s response that Audit Wales should use its unique role to drive improvements in financial management across the public sector in Wales. It encourages Audit Wales to to focus on unitary authorities, noting that Welsh councils are not immune from the financial management failures seen in a small number of English councils.
The response expresses a belief that Audit Wales’ reports highlighting the importance of matters such as timely financial reporting and effective use of data could help drive efforts to strengthen the public sector finance profession in Wales. ICAEW offers to support such efforts because it aligns closely with the ICAEW strategic theme of strengthening trust in ICAEW chartered accountants and the wider profession.
In particular, ICAEW welcomes Audit Wales’ focus on sustainability and economic transformation as part of its key theme of “a changing world”. The response recommends that Audit Wales prioritise climate mitigation, sustainability reporting and how the public sector supports small businesses in driving local economic growth and addressing regional disparities.
Oliver Simms, Manager, Public Sector Audit & Assurance for ICAEW, commented:
“Audit Wales does excellent work in holding Welsh public sector bodies to account. While the majority of this is through the statutory audit of accounts, its wider work is vital for increasing public transparency and drawing out lessons that can be learnt.”
“ICAEW looks forward to supporting Audit Wales in enacting the Auditor General for Wales’ work programme as it aligns closely with our strategic themes. We have suggested some areas for focus where we believe Audit Wales is especially well placed to add value, such as in improving Welsh public sector financial management, fraud prevention and sustainability reporting.”
Read ICAEW’s response to the consultation on the Auditor General for Wales’ future work programme.