Report of the Director for Corporate Services and County Treasurer (S151)
The Committee received a report and a short presentation by the Director for Corporate Services on the Staffordshire Pension Fund Annual Report and Accounts 2020/21. The presentation covered the following matters:
The Committee were informed that, under Regulations, the Pension Fund must publish an annual report, which includes the accounts, by 1 December. The external auditors were also obliged to issue an Independent Auditor’s Statement on the accounts.
The Director for Corporate Services explained that there had not been the same challenges in the audit of the 2020/21 accounts that were experienced during the audit of the 2019/20 accounts and the Pension Fund’s external audit had been predominantly completed as planned. However, additional, and last-minute assurances in relation to the IAS19 actuarial valuation processes, that were being sought by auditors nationally, had meant that EY now had some additional testing to complete, that they had not originally planned for. This in turn had delayed their ability to issue the ISA260 and their Independent Auditors Statement for the Pension Fund. The Committee discussed how this additional testing was impacting on the District and Borough Councils and how this situation was not of the Pension Fund’s making.
The Committee noted that the Pension Fund’s accounts were included within the County Council’s Statement of Accounts, which are due to be presented to the County Council’s Audit and Standards Committee on 26 October 2021, and would include EY’s final audit opinion which was likely to be ‘unqualified’. Once the main audit work has been completed, EY would undertake a final review of Staffordshire Pension Fund’s Annual Report and Accounts for 2020/21 and issue an Independent Auditors Statement; which would confirm that the accounts included in the Annual Report and Accounts of the Pension Fund were consistent with those included within Staffordshire County Council’s Statement of Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2021.
EY would also provide their Audit Results Report (ISA260). Any matters highlighted in the ISA260 would be drawn to the Chair’s attention and reported back to Pensions Committee should they be considered of significance or material importance.
With regard to the Annual Report, the Committee noted that, in March 2019, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) issued Guidance for Local Government Pension Scheme Funds on Preparing the Annual Report. To date changes following on from this guidance had been incorporated into the report, on a ‘best endeavours’ basis, particularly in relation to the various information and metrics on Local Government asset pooling, until such time that more consistent data was available to be included.
Although the report had not yet missed the 1 December publishing deadline, delaying approval to the next meeting of the Pensions Committee on 17 December would be too late. The Committee were asked to note that, following conclusion of the audit by EY, there may still be minor amendments required to the document, such as including the Independent Auditors Statement. It was therefore recommended that a final version of the Annual Report and Accounts be signed off by the Chair, as soon as this was available and prior to publishing such on the Staffordshire Pension Fund’s website.
Cllr Greatorex referred to the KPI’s on workflow contained within the Annual Report and enquired as to whether the Director for Corporate Services was content with the direction of travel. In response, the Director outlined several recent improvements in achievements across the KPI suite, despite increases in volumes in some instances and added that performance levels were discussed by Senior Fund Officers each month, so that any resourcing and service implications could be addressed.
RESOLVED – (a) That the draft Staffordshire Pension Fund Annual Report and Accounts for 2020/21, attached at Appendix 2 to the report, be approved and that the potential need for minor amendments, pending the conclusion of the external audit of the Pension Fund accounts by Ernst and Young (EY), including an updated Independent Auditor’s Statement on page 73, be noted; and that the final version of the Staffordshire Pension Fund Annual Report and Accounts 2020/21 be signed off by the Chair, prior to publishing the document on the Staffordshire Pension Fund’s website, following completion of the external audit.
(b) That it be noted that, following the conclusion of the external audit, the separate Audit Results Report (ISA260) of the Staffordshire Pension Fund’s external auditors, Ernst and Young (EY) entitled “Staffordshire Pension Fund Audit Results Report for the Year ended 31 March 2021”, will be presented to the Council’s Audit and Standards Committee at its meeting on 26 October 2021, alongside Staffordshire County Council’s Annual Report and Accounts for 2020/21 and their own ISA260.