Creating auditor choice

On 13th August 2010, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles, announced the end of the Audit Commission, signalling a new era of public sector audit.

What followed was a period of uncertainty and speculation with the publication of the ‘future of local public audit’ consultation paper in April 2011, providing much needed structure to the debate.

The political and economic backdrop to the demise of the Audit Commission has been one of significant change, with substantial public sector spending cuts.

In this environment, public spending is continually thrust into the public eye, leading to questions about where taxpayer’s money is being spent and why. Never before have such sweeping changes been proposed to the way in which assurance is given to the public about how its money is spent. Local authorities want the opportunity to select their own auditors and the proposed changes will provide competition and choice.

This Talking Points publication considers what role audit plays in the public sector today, explores what the benefits of audit choice will be to the public sector and to the public at large, and assesses the current proposals of the consultation. The audit of public sector organisations should build public trust in how money is spent and accounted for and auditor choice, if implemented in a timely and appropriate manner, provides an opportunity to achieve real change for the better.