Comments from ACCA to the Local Authority (Scotland) Accounts Advisory Committee, April 2011.
We believe that this consultation is timely and reflects a commitment to making financial statements understandable to elected members residing on local authority overview and scrutiny committees and / or a lay person. Also, the consultation demonstrates a commitment to stewardship, transparency and accountability of public funds. In our response we have chosen to focus on questions 1, 2 and 3.
Question 1: Is the document clear and understandable?
In our view the guide is clear and well structured. We recognise that there is a need to be as comprehensive as possible, but we have a slight concern with the length of the guide as 52 pages may seem daunting to the reader. To minimise length, perhaps the document would benefit from the use of more exhibits or examples of financial statements together with clear sign posting on how to use the guide.
Question 2: Is it helpful to the target audience?
In our view the guide is helpful, particularly for scrutiny committees. The questions outlined on page 17 are useful examples. However, in our view the guide should be supplemented with support and training where appropriate. This would help to further raise awareness and embed financial scrutiny into elected members and governors psyche. In our experience elected members on scrutiny committees prefer to focus on policy issues, which is sometimes at the expense of financial scrutiny. The guide together with structured training may help to bridge this gap.
Question 3: Will the document help governors (e.g. elected members) use the financial statements?
The document is a useful reference point for elected member, governors and more widely the public. Whilst it is a worthwhile initiative it doesn't guarantee that governors and elected members will use the guide. Further work will be required to promote the guide together with signposts for further advice and support.