Public Sector Audit – It’s not just accounts

When I talk to people and tell them that I am training to become a public sector auditor most people look at me with a blank face, whilst some people run away and hide at the mere mention of the word audit. For those who are still around for me to explain further, the first thing I always mention is financial statements as I imagine this is what most people would associate with audit. It is true that we do spend a good half of the year conducting financial statement audits (of local authorities, NHS Trusts, Ambulance Trusts, Fire and Police authorities to mention a few), however this still leaves half of the year where we are getting up to other things.

Unfortunately I don’t get to take a six month holiday, drinking tea and eating cake all day whilst watching box sets of Friends. From the end of September when the final accounts work ends, the certification work begins. This covers a variety of grants and other payments which public sector bodies receive from the Government or European Parliament, such as business rates, transport grants and regional enterprise monies. For a trainee, certification work can be really rewarding as it is often the first task that you get to complete from start to finish without much intervention from other members of the audit team. Within a final accounts audit it is common to be given a section of the file to work on, such as cash, where you will complete the section and hand it back to the in-charge for feedback. This however sits alongside around eight or nine other significant sections in the main audit file meaning that a final accounts audit really is a team effort. The difference with a grant claim comes in to the fact that the work which I get to take on has a direct influence on the certification opinion, and often I do get to make a judgement about whether (based on the evidence viewed) I believe the claim is stated truly and fairly. This is a big responsibility, because if you think about a body who receives grant funding, it is really important that they send their claim in on time and that it is accurate as the consequences of them not receiving their funding on time, or not receiving the amount which they were expecting could be massive. Of course, the work that I carry out is reviewed by a manager and engagement lead before the opinion is signed, so anything that I am unsure about can be sorted by someone with a little more experience, however thinking that I played a part in a body receiving it’s funding always makes me feel good.

So that’s September until around mid-December taken care of with certification season, then from the new year we start our interim audits for NHS bodies. At interim stage much of the testing is around the controls that an organisation has around its financial processes and systems, there really isn’t much number crunching at all. It is a time you get to sit down with clients and really get to know their organisation individually, and is a fast but rewarding learning experience. During the winter months it is also possible to seize the personal development opportunities that the firm offers, many of which are held at Bradenham Manor (reason enough to enrol).

For me at the moment I have officially passed my one year anniversary at the firm (I am unsure whether anniversary is the correct word but we’ll go with it). I am coming to the end of my first final accounts season and it has been a busy time, I am thoroughly looking forward to using up the lieu time that I have accumulated during this tiring period. I’ve been from Truro to Barry Island, the Scilly Isles to Swindon and read a lot of issues of the Metro on trains. It is also a very exciting time for me as the application season has begun (applications for 2014 positions are now open!) which means I get to attend careers fares and university days to meet potential applicants. Talking to students and promoting the firm is one of my favourite parts of my job, and the very reason I got involved with the Spilling the Beans team, especially when you see someone that you have spoken to at a careers fair starting their first day at the firm.

In the spirit of the above, I have written this blog whilst sitting on a train, however this time not for work, I am going home to be pampered by my parents for the weekend and use a day of that hard-earned leave that I mentioned. I look forward to meeting lots of you at the two upcoming Cardiff University careers fairs which I will be attending with the recruitment team in October (any excuse for me to return to my old life as a student there). Other members of the Spilling the Beans team, as well as our campus ambassadors and recruitment team will be at other locations around the country to scout out the next wave of business advisors. See you there.


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