Accounts staff problems leave taxpayers with £20,000 bill

PUBLISHED: 12:45 17 March 2009 | UPDATED: 14:01 06 May 2010

STAFFING problems within the accounts department at St Albans District Council appear to have cost taxpayers £20,000. The accounts for 2007/2008 were not completed by the deadline and contained non-material errors, a matter which was reported to the counc

STAFFING problems within the accounts department at St Albans District Council appear to have cost taxpayers £20,000.

The accounts for 2007/2008 were not completed by the deadline and contained non-material errors, a matter which was reported to the council's audit committee last August.

The council said that the main problem was the lack of qualified experienced accountants within the finance department due to a number of resignations and retirements.

There were difficulties in filling the principal group accountant post for eight months and two other senior managers resigned - issues which were further compounded by changes to accounting requirements and changes to the most senior finance officer posts.

It has also emerged that a temp supplied by a professional agency was found to have insufficient skills to deal with the job he was employed to do.

When the problems surfaced, auditors had to carry out further work which cost the council £20,000. The accounts have since been confirmed.

But recommendations were due to go before the full council at a meeting last night (Wednesday) setting out arrangements to ensure the problems are not repeated.

These included providing sufficient staff with the correct skills to support accounts production and to develop a comprehensive project plan.

A council spokesperson said: "The council has received unqualified confirmation of its accounts for 2007/08. Problems have arisen due to staffing issues. As soon as the issue was isolated, appropriate resources were put in place to resolve the questions raised and answer them satisfactorily to the auditors."

She added: "The questions raised by the auditors required them to do additional audit work to enable them to be satisfied that the issue had indeed been resolved. Additional costs payable to the auditors totalled £20,000."

The spokesperson said that the council's audit committee had received the details about what action has been taken and was satisfied with the response.

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