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£2m cost for auditors to scrutinise council finances

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
AUDITORS will scrutinise the books of Dumfries and Galloway Council over the next few years and ensure public money is being spent properly – at a cost of £2 million.

Audit Scotland have been appointed by council watchdog, the Accounts Commission, as the the local authority’s external auditors for each of the financial years up until 2026/27.
While the move will help detect fraud and prevent public money from being wasted in future years, the whole process is actually costing Dumfries and Galloway Council around £2m.
Last year’s audit bill was £389,370, this year’s will be £412,720, and three more similar fees will arrive in future years after lengthy investigations are carried out throughout each financial years.
Fiona Mitchell-Knight, of Audit Scotland, is leading a team of three who will carry out the independent review of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s finances.
These yearly audits will be discussed by councillors at the council’s audit, risk and scrutiny committee next week.
An Audit Scotland report, due to be tabled the meeting, reads: “Auditors in the public sector give an independent opinion on the financial statements and other information within the Annual Accounts.
“We also review and report on the arrangements within the council to manage its performance and use of resources. In doing this, we aim to support improvement and accountability.”
The external audit of the council includes:
• Evaluation of the design and implementation of the key controls within the main accounting systems.
* Audit of the annual accounts
• Consideration of arrangements in relation to financial management, financial sustainability, vision, leadership and governance, and use of resources to improve outcomes.
• Consideration of best value arrangements.
• Review of arrangements for preparing and publishing statutory performance information.
Earlier this year, the Accounts Commission urged Dumfries and Galloway Council to focus on providing clearer and more easily accessible information to local people about how local services are performing and its progress on reforms and savings plans.
Christine Lester, member of the Accounts Commission, said: “Dumfries and Galloway Council has made significant progress over recent years, with strong leadership and a clear vision. As the council recognises, balancing future budgets relies on making changes to how it delivers services.
“Councillors and officers cannot underestimate the challenges to achieve this and they need to make sure they are reporting clearly to citizens about their progress and performance.
“Councils across Scotland face increasingly constrained budgets and difficult decisions about services will have to be made.”

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