Local authorities are statutorily obliged to keep proper books of accounts and to prepare annual financial statements of their activities to 31 December each year. These statements are to be ready for audit by the following 31 March.
The audit of local government was updated and consolidated in sections 114 to 126 of the Local Government Act, 2001. Audits are carried out in accordance with a statutory Code of Audit Practice, which includes the following:
- Framework for Local Government Audit
- Professional Audit Service
- Financial and Performance Audit
- Local Government Audit Reporting
Local Government Auditors are required to give an audit opinion on the annual financial statements of local authorities and other audited bodies.
In addition to the audit opinion, it is custom and practice to issue statutory audit reports to the elected members on the major audits, covering any matter or matters which the auditors feels should be reported. The Chief Executive is required to respond to this report and his/her comments may be included as part of the final report, which is an important part of public accountability.
These reports and any associated management actions are subsequently reviewed by the audit committees in local authorities. The role of these committees in the corporate governance of local authorities have been greatly enhanced under the Local Government (Audit Committee) Regulations 2014.
Auditors also assist local authorities in improving their accounting and internal control systems by issuing management letters as part of the external audit process.