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What is the role of ICAEW's newly created Public Sector Advisory Group?

3 July 2020: ICAEW's Public Sector Community has established a new Public Sector Advisory Group (PSAG), which held its first meeting. Chaired by Kathryn Cearns OBE, it consists of 17 professionals with a keen interest in the public sector.

PSAG was created by amalgamating the Public Sector Financial Reporting Committee and the Public Sector Audit and Assurance Committee. It therefore covers all aspects of public finance management but with a primary focus on financial reporting and audit.

Combining the public sector financial reporting and audit committees brings an extraordinary amount of insight and experience from PSAG members. This will support ICAEW’s public sector team in engaging, influencing and challenging the public sector to the benefit of our members and stakeholders. 

General accounting and auditing 

One of the topical areas emerging from the first meeting is the general accounting and auditing landscape for local authorities. There is a debate as to whether IFRS standards are appropriate for the users of local authority accounts and could the statements be simplified. 

The dual purpose of local authority accounts – for council tax calculations and to report performance – continues to create challenges. The audit market for local authorities is currently not functioning well.

There was general agreement that any genuine simplification was unlikely to happen in the short term since it would require legislative changes. Until then, the code itself should be reduced in size and made easier to understand as an aid to practitioners – both preparers and auditors.

Relevant topics for future meetings

Many of the emerging topics are linked to COVID-19, these include:

  • going concern issues;
  • regularity of spend; and
  • the impact on reserves and subsequent duties for s151 officers – particularly liquidity notices.

There are two further PSAG meetings scheduled for 2020, which are virtual unless the current Covid-19 situation changes which may allow a physical meeting to go ahead. The next meeting is scheduled for September.

If you are interested in hearing more about PSAG and would perhaps be interested in joining, please contact Henning Diederichs