Frequently Asked Questions
What is SAAA?
SAAA is an independent company created to procure external audit services for smaller authorities, following the closure of the Audit Commission.
The SAAA board is formed of six members:
Three independent directors;
Mike Attenborough-Cox – Independent Chairman
Martin McNeill – Independent member
Lizzie Peers – Independent member
Three member directors;
Peter Bateson – Association of Drainage Authorities
Jonathan Owen – National Association of Local Councils
Steve Alison – Society of Local Council Clerks
Why was the formation of SAAA necessary?
The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 (the Act) closed the Audit Commission and established new arrangements for the accountability and audit of local public bodies in England.
The closure of the Audit Commission meant that approximately 9,802 small authorities needed to appoint their own external auditors for the first time.
SAAA was formed to assist these smaller authorities with external audit procurement and appointments in compliance with the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.
Why was opting out made possible?
The legislation states that for the financial year starting on 1 April 2017, all smaller authorities (including those under the £25K threshold) must appoint their own external auditor.
It was acknowledged that having approximately 10,000 authorities appointing their own auditors would generate significant practical challenges. To help smaller authorities find and appoint an auditor, the Secretary of State has specified SAAA as a sector led audit procurement body with powers to appoint auditors and set audit fees for smaller authorities.
Authorities are opted into the SAAA sector led arrangements by default. However, as the intention of the legislation was that all authorities should have the opportunity to appoint their own auditor, there remains an option to opt out.
SAAA need to know how many authorities are opting out as this will influence its procurement exercise for all those authorities remaining opted in.
How much will it cost?
The fees have been determined by SAAA following consultation for the Audit Years 2017-18 to 2021-22 and the document is available here to view. Scales of Fees 2017-18 to 2021-22. Scales of fees for smaller authorities are based on bands of annual income or expenditure, whichever is the higher. This means that the fees are broadly proportionate to the public funds involved and the ability of each authority to pay.
Who is my appointed auditor for 2017-18?
All auditor appointments are listed by contract (County) area on the audit appointments page of the SAAA website together with their contact details.
What period of time is the auditor appointed for?
The auditors have initially been appointed for a 5 year period commencing 1st April 2017.
How do I know if my authority is opted-in or opted-out of the SAAA regime?
Following the extensive communication and invitation exercise undertaken during 2016, all smaller authorities in England are now opted-in to the central procurement and appointment of external auditors.
I think my authority may be ‘exempt’ from external audit, what should I do?
An authority will not be able to certify itself as ‘exempt’ from requiring a limited assurance review by its external auditor until the conclusion of the 2017-18 financial year at 31st March 2018.
At the conclusion of the 2017-18 financial year, if an authority is able to confirm various statements and the higher of its annual gross income and expenditure does not exceed £25,000, it will be able to complete and sign a Certificate of Exemption which will need to be sent to its appointed auditor.
If my authority is exempt do we still need an appointed auditor?
All authorities must have an external auditor appointed in case an interested party wishes to raise an objection to an item of account. The appointed auditor for 2017-18 will only be able to consider objections relating to the 2017-18 year of account.
As an exempt authority do we still need to complete and publish an annual return?
Yes, if an authority certifies itself as exempt it must still complete an Annual Return and must comply with the statutory Transparency Code for Smaller Authorities and publish its Annual Return on a freely accessible website.
Is it possible to complete an electronic version of the annual return?
SAAA are currently working on producing an electronic version of the annual return which can be downloaded and completed electronically for 2017-18. This can then be printed off and signed. In line with government strategy, the intention is that future communications will be by e-mail.