Responsible Financial Officer (RFO)
All Parish Councils are required to appoint an RFO. It is permissible for the Parish Clerk to carry out the RFO role but Chearsley Parish Council has opted to appoint a separate RFO who is a Chartered Accountant.
A summary report of income and expenditure for the preceding month is provided by the RFO at each Council meeting. Additionally, a more detailed analysis of income and expenditure is provided quarterly.
The Council uses on-line banking for most of its transactions, operated only by the RFO. A second Councillor is provided with read-only access to the account to enable a second-person check on the reported figures. The Chairman also holds the account access details in case of the RFO becoming unavailable but is specifically not allowed to access the account in normal circumstances.
To maintain segregation of duties the RFO has no responsibility for purchasing.
The Annual Governance and Accountability Return (AGAR)
The AGAR is the principal means by which the Council is held accountable to its electorate for the way in which public funds in its care have been administered. It is in three sections.
Section 1. The Annual Governance Statement
The Annual Governance Statement comprises a number of statements confirming that key financial controls have been maintained. It is signed by the Council Chairman and Clerk after approval by the Council and confirms that:
- the accounts have been properly prepared and approved;
- a system of internal control is in place, including the appointment of a competent and independent internal auditor, and the effectiveness of both the system and the appointment has been reviewed;
- the council has taken reasonable steps to comply with the law;
- the council has assessed all possible risks to public money;
- the accounts have been publicised for general inspection so that electors’ rights can be exercised;
- there are no potentially damaging or hidden issues such as an impending claim against the council;
- significant differences in the figures between the current and the previous year have been explained.
The most recent Annual Governance Statement is here
Section 2. The Accounting Statement
The Accounting Statement is a high-level summary of the Council’s income and expenditure for the year, is a proscribed format. It is signed by the Council Chairman and Responsible Financial Officer after approval by the Council.
The most recent Accounting Statement is here
Section 3. External Auditor Report and Certificate
Following satisfactory completion of an Internal Audit, the AGAR is submitted for review to an External Auditor, appointed by the Auditor General. The External Auditor can request further clarification as required, and once satisfied will issue an Audit Report and Certificate, the most recent of which is here.
Copies of the AGAR for previous years are available in the AGAR Archive
The Annual Internal Audit Report
The Council is required to appoint an Internal Auditor who reviews the Annual Governance Statement and Accounting Statements prior to them being submitted for External Audit. The Internal Auditor provides a written report confirming, or otherwise, their opinion on the extent to which the individual statements in the Annual Governance Statement have been met by the Council, along with any other appropriate advice and guidance.
Following completion of the Internal Audit, but prior to submission for External Audit, Sections 1 and 2 of the AGAR are made available for public examination for a period of 6 weeks.
A formal Notice of Public Rights and Publication of Unaudited Annual Governance and Accountability Return is published according to a proscribed timetable to indicate that the AGAR is available for examination.
Notice of Conclusion of Audit
A Notice of Completion of Audit is published on completion of the Audit process.