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Chief Executive of ESFA issues a letter to academy accounting officers

29 July 2019

On 19 July 2019, Eileen Milner, the Chief Executive of the ESFA issued a letter to academy trust accounting officers, copied to chairs.  The letter’s aim is to emphasise certain matters that were published recently in the Academies Financial Handbook 2019.

Internal scrutiny

There is more information about how a trust must check the suitability of, and level of compliance with, its internal controls.  The letter discusses the importance of having an effective audit committee and its role in directing the programme of internal scrutiny as well as considering recommendations from internal auditors.

Submitting internal scrutiny reports to ESFA

The handbook also requires trusts to send an annual internal scrutiny report to the ESFA by 31 December 2020 summarising the work done in this area.

Although this requirement will first apply in December 2020, the ESFA will also be asking trusts to submit their most recent internal scrutiny finding by 31 December 2019, together with their annual financial statements.  The report simply needs to be the latest report that was issued, it does not need to be a summary for the whole year.  More guidance will be published in October explaining the process by which this report is to be submitted.

It is important for trusts to plan now with their internal auditors to make sure that the work undertaken in 2019/20 is appropriate and sufficient in order that the annual report that will be issued to the ESFA in 2020 is comprehensive.

Providing contact details

The ESFA has expanded the requirement to include contact details for all of those involved in school governance.  Historically, this information was only required for the chair, the chief finance officer and the accounting officer.  An online system known as ‘GIAS’ is used to record this and will need to be completed from 1 September 2019.

School resource management self-assessment tool (SRMSAT)

The ESFA launched the SRMSAT in September 2018 as a voluntary tool whereby trusts could measure their financial performance in an objective manner.  The ESFA is making this mandatory for 2019 for all trusts.  Indeed, a completed copy of the SRMSAT must be submitted to the ESFA by 14 November 2019 for academies which are open as at 31 August 2019.

Fraud risk management

Given the significant increase in cybercrime over the past year, the letter emphasises the resources available on its website to trusts to help them minimise this risk.

A link to the letter can be found here.

If you would like any help or advice regarding the Academies Financial Handbook 2019, please contact your local UHY Academy School specialist.

Alternatively, fill out our Contact Form here.