Public Sector Audit Appointments Limited (PSAA), the company initially established by the LGA to act as the transitional body, will continue to use its skills and experience to secure efficient and effective arrangements for the independent appointment of auditors on behalf of the sector. Following over 98 per cent of eligible bodies opting into the national scheme run by PSAA, contracts have been put in place that will provide significant further reductions in audit fees.
Following lobbying by the LGA and demonstrable support from across the sector, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government specified PSAA as the appointing person in July 2016. The LGA has achieved its objective of establishing a national sector led body to deliver economic and efficient external arrangements for the benefit of all authorities who have opted in to this arrangement.
The overwhelming majority of councils and other relevant bodies decided to opt in to the national scheme. PSAA has now completed its procurement of audit services and the resultant contracts will cover a five year period commencing with the audit of accounts for 2018/19. PSAA has an option to extend the contracts for a further two year period, to a total of seven years, if it chooses to do so. This means that a quality and cost-effective audit service will remain in place at the end of the current contracts, which come to an end when the current auditors complete the 2017/18 audits.
PSAA is expecting to agree an overall reduction in fees of 23 per cent for 2018/19 and is hoping to be able to maintain fees at this reduced level for at least three years and perhaps five years. Alongside this reduction in fees PSAA is ensuring the quality of audit provision is maintained, with a greater weighting given to audit quality in the procurement exercise and stronger arrangements for monitoring the quality of audits.
Auditors will be appointed by 31 December 2017, following the conclusion of a consultation undertaken with councils and other opted in bodies on individual appointments.
A small number of councils have decided to make local arrangements to appoint their auditors by setting up auditor panels, either individually or collectively. The LGA offered to support these councils as they made independent arrangements.
Councils have opted in for a five year period, but it is possible for other authorities to join the scheme during this time. All authorities will be invited to opt in to an updated national scheme ahead of the current national scheme coming to an end.