External audit recognises good progress
Members of The Highland Council will be asked to note the overall positive external audit of the Council’s progress in delivering the Best Value Audit Report (BVAR) improvement plan and the positive progress on the Council’s financial position and financial management as highlighted in the external audit report.
The Best Value Assurance Report (BVAR) of the Council was conducted by the Council’s external auditors Grant Thornton and Audit Scotland during summer- autumn 2019. The final BVAR was published by Audit Scotland in January 2020 with the Council considering the report and agreeing a BVAR Improvement Plan on 12 March 2021.
The external auditors Grant Thornton found that the Council continues to demonstrate sound financial management during a challenging financial year and improved financial performance, significantly improving the reserve position. They said: “In a year of unprecedented challenge, the Council has demonstrated good progress in addressing the recommendations of the Council’s BVAR.”
The auditors also found governance and transparency arrangements to be effective during the management of COVID-19, and which were consistent with other public bodies. The Council re-established governance in a timely manner along with the establishment of the Recovery Board (now Recovery, Improvement & Transformation Board) recognising the importance of recovery activity.
They found that the Council has enhanced its performance reporting information and level of scrutiny against key strategic objectives, as well as providing transparent reporting of performance.
The external audit report also recognises the commitment made through the Future Highland Strategy to working collaboratively with partners across a range of strategic matters.
The auditors noted that while good progress has been made further work is required to complete the Council’s BVAR Improvement Plan.
The Audit and Scrutiny Committee will receive an annual report on the external audit of the Council’s accounts and wider scope at its next meeting.
Chair of Audit and Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Graham Mackenzie said: “This is a very welcome report and demonstrates significant improvement across a range of areas. The improved financial position of the Council will be important in what are likely to be difficult times ahead.”
Leader of the Council Margaret Davidson praised the work of officers in achieving a very positive report. She said: “This is an excellent report and a reflection of the very hard work of many officers and staff in driving improvement and delivering effective services in the most difficult of years.”