The Auditor General Responds 
Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at 12:25PM
Bill Barclay

I have received the following response from the AG regarding my enquiry dated 14 May:

"Dear Mr Barclay

THAMES-COROMANDEL DISTRICT COUNCIL LONG TERM PLAN

I refer to your letter dated 14 May 2018 in which you raise concerns about the Thames-Coromandel District Council's (the Council) financial strategy. You have requested that the Auditor-General review the audit opinion issued with respect to the Council's 2018-28 Long-term plan consultation document and to advise Council and yourself as to whether Council's proposals are in accordance with "best practice" accounting standards.

I agree that the Council's analysis of your submission the 2018-28 Long-term plan consultation document that was provided to the Council's deliberation meeting is unsatisfactory. This is a matter that I suggest you take up directly with the Council. I note that you have provided a copy of your letter to Scott Summerfield at the Council.

I thought it would be helpful to clarify the role of the auditor in auditing a council's Long-term plan consultation document. As part of the audit of the consultation document, the auditor considers the quality of the underlying information which includes the financial strategy and the reasonableness of the assumptions applied. The focus of the consultation document audit is on the issues that the council is consulting on and the underlying information that supports these consultation matters.

The auditor does not comment on the policy decisions made by the council that inform the content of the financial strategy. The content of the strategy is for the individual council to determine provided that the council acts in a financially prudent manner in terms of sections 100 and 101 of the Local Government Act 2002.

In this instance we are satisfied that the auditor appropriately concluded that the consultation document provided an effective basis for public participation, and that the information and assumptions used to develop the consultation document were reasonable.

Councils' Long-term plans are also audited and the information and assumptions are tested again by the auditors noting that these may have changed as a result of the submissions received and other information becoming available to the council. During the audit of the Long-term plan the auditor considers whether the forecast financial statements included in the Long-term plan are prepared in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Practice.

Thank-you for taking the time to write to us. Yours sincerely

Kristin Aitken

Sector Manager, Local Government"

Seems like a 'bog-standard' response from this Office - if you analyse it, they don't really take responsibility for anything - councils appear free to do whatever they like. The fact that TCDC  is unwilling to justify, let alone discuss its stated financial plans outlined in its LTP beyond claiming the general approval of its auditors is quite deplorable. Even the practice of defining the questions on which submitters are permitted to comment is contentious.

I frankly cannot be bothered with taking the issue any further - we are encouraged to have confidence in the oversight of the Auditor General, but this confidence has clearly been misplaced, both now and in the past. The AG is simply exercises a background 'rubber-stamp,' and we are left to wonder. 

I am hesitant to mention 'arrogance' - the current administration has been such a marked improvement in that regard over the last, but they need to be careful - very careful, lest they 'cross that line.'They may need to be regularly reminded that they are there to serve ratepayers - not the other way around.

 

 

 

 

Article originally appeared on BillBarcBlog (http://billbarclay.co.nz/).
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