Case study list
Pembrokeshire County Council has improved its accounts closure process through a number of initiatives
Pembrokeshire County Council
Like other public sector bodies, Pembrokeshire County Council (the Council) has had to manage an accounts process which, over recent years, has seen earlier deadlines and changes in accounting requirements. In order to manage the process, the Council has developed an approach which ensures the accounts closure process runs efficiently and ensures objectives and deadlines are met.
Benefits and success factors
The overall initiative has a number of key elements that contribute to its overall success:
- A handbook for financial services managers allocates responsibilities to named officers and details timetables, targets, deadlines, accounting policies as well as including reference documentation, standard working papers and previous year action plans. This is a comprehensive document that succeeds in promoting ownership in the closedown process.
- A project-based approach is adopted when dealing with the introduction of new accounting requirements and a working group is established with input from technical specialists and the Wales Audit Office. This ensures efforts can be focused on key areas.
- The accounts process is co-ordinated by one accountant who also acts as the main point of contact for the Wales Audit Office and liaises between accounts staff and audit staff to deal with queries. This approach ensures queries are resolved in a more productive manner.
- There is a regular dialogue with the Wales Audit office throughout the process - early involvement in key issues being important as this promotes a 'no surprises' approach when dealing with potential problems and ensures matters can be resolved as early as possible. Working paper requirements are agreed at an early stage with an agreed checklist forming part of the process.
This focused approach results in draft accounts which are prepared on time, meet CIPFA's requirements and require little subsequent amendment. This provides assurance to Councillors and helps the approval process to run smoothly.
There is also a better mutual understanding of expectations between the Council and the Wales Audit Office which ensures good relations are maintained.