Backlog means accounts for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority cannot be signed off - an ‘awkward situation’ says audit chairman

Metro Mayor James Palmer outlines what hes doing to improve rail services locally

Metro Mayor James Palmer outlines what hes doing to improve rail services locally - Credit: Archant

The Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) has been unable to publish its final statement of accounts for 2018/19, ’embarrassed’ members have heard.

The announcement was made by Jon Alsop, head of finance for CAPCA at a meeting of the audit and governance committee (Friday).

Due to have been completed on July 1, audit manager Dan Cooke of Ernst & Young, explained: "Unfortunately, a number of our clients' audits have not been completed on time.

"As a result we have a backlog; and this includes the external audit for CAPCA final statement of accounts for 2018/19."

Mr Alsop asked the members to sign off the accounts 'in principle only'.

He said: "When the audit is published by Ernst & Young, any significant changes found within it can be brought back to members for their scrutiny."

Chairman, John Pye said: "I realise this is an awkward situation for us to be in, so we've taken considerable legal advice on our position.

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"I feel that it would be prudent to sign off these accounts in principle only, reserving the right to review any substantive alterations should they arise following completion from Ernst & Young.

"I am told that legally we can do this, provided we make a statement to that effect and publish it on the CAPCA website."

Cllr Mike Davey said: "I agree with what the committee is doing, but the wording of the legal statement is not only critical to me, but vital

"As I have not seen that wording yet, I am not happy to put my name to it."

Chairman Pye replied: "Cllr Davey is quite correct, none of us have seen the wording of the legal statement as it hasn't yet been written.

"We wanted to put the matter before this committee first to see if members agreed.

"If members are happy for us to proceed as I have indicated, our legal advisory team will draw up the statement, making it available to all of you for comments before being published on the website.

Cllr Nick Sandford said: "While I echo the concerns raised by Cllr Davey, I have to say that once this legal statement is published, people will naturally think there is something fishy going on."

While Cllr Mark Goldsack went further, saying: "In the light of the poor excuse from Ernst & Young and the potential political outcome of this audit being late, especially as it will now be reported in the press, this is nothing short of a complete **** up."

Cllr Mac McGuire added: "Regardless of who is at fault, and the reasons for this delay, we have a contract with Ernst & Young and this highly embarrassing event must not happen again.

"CPCA is a member of the Public Sector Audit Appointments Ltd, part of the Local Government Association, and even though Ernst & Young say everything will be completed by the first week of August, Cllrs Sandford and Goldsack are right - the political fallout from this could be catastrophic."

Chairman Pye said: "I've been as open and up front with members over this matter as could possibly be expected.

"It is indeed most regrettable that this delay has occurred, and I have to say that while they have apologised, I have not yet been given any kind of assurance from Ernst & Young that this sort of thing will not happen again in the future."

Mr Cooke gave chairman Pye and the committee members his assurance on behalf of Ernst & Young that there would be no re-occurrence next year.

Chairman Pye said: "I accept your assurance on behalf of Ernst & Young."

Ernst & Young would only comment saying the CAPCA final statement of accounts for 2018/19 will be completed by the first week of August.

CAPCA will publish their legal statement to that effect on the authority's website.