A Code of Audit Practice: Not as dry as you’d think

Image of Huw Vaughan Thomas, Auditor General for Wales.

Written by Huw Vaughan Thomas, Auditor General for Wales.

To some, the world of public sector audit seems a dry and dusty one: An austere environment of number crunching, pen pushing, filing – all washed down with copious amounts of tea and coffee.

But it’s not …. or at least that’s only a tiny fraction of the truth.

In Wales, my role exists to make sure that the public sector spends its money wisely and runs its services in a way that represents value for money for the 3 million or so people who live here.

To me, that’s vital, and dynamic. And the people who help me to carry out this work – and believe me there is a lot of it – are equally passionate about their mission.

What is true is that auditors love detail, which is good, as they certainly have to plough through a lot of it.

And with detail, comes the need for standards and rules. That’s because the public must be assured that the scrutiny of financial accounts and services – which are being carried out on their behalf – are reliable, robust, consistent and clear.

This is something the law also demands. I am required to produce a set of principles – known as a Code of Audit Practice – which everyone has to abide by when conducting audit work on my behalf.

Every year, I conduct audits at over 800 bodies and, naturally, I can’t do that all myself.

Staff at the Wales Audit Office deliver around two thirds of my annual audit work. The rest is contracted out to private sector accountancy firms.

Similarly, I also have to prepare a Statement of Practice that describes the way in which my audit and assessment functions relating to local government improvement must be exercised.

I’m now consulting on the latest drafts of these documents because of new legal requirements placed on me through the passing of the Public Audit (Wales) 2013 Act and because of some new strategic priorities for my work over the next three years.

I welcome views from anyone on these documents and will be keeping the consultation period open until 31 January 2014.

These revised set of principles will allow us to maximise the contribution auditors can make in helping the people of Wales know whether public money is being managed wisely and public bodies in Wales understand how to improve outcomes.

And making that kind of contribution really is vital, and dynamic – albeit with some number crunching and cups of tea or coffee thrown in.

About the Author:

Huw Vaughan Thomas is the Auditor General for Wales and has held the post since October 2010.

The Auditor General, and the auditors he appoints in local government, are the independent statutory external auditors of most of the Welsh public sector.

They are responsible for the annual audit of the majority of public money spent in Wales, including the £15 billion of funds that are voted on annually by the National Assembly.

Elements of this funding are passed by the Welsh Government to the NHS in Wales (over £5 billion) and to local government (over £4 billion).

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