The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority has been unable to publish its Final Statement of Accounts for 2018/19.
The announcement was made by Jon Alsop, head of finance at the combined authority, at a meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee on Friday.
Due to have been completed on July 1, Dan Cooke, audit manager at Ernst & Young, told the meeting: “Unfortunately a number of our clients’ audits have not been completed on time.
“As a result we have a backlog; and this includes the external audit for CPCA Final Statement of Accounts for 2018/19.”
Mr Alsop proposed the committee sign off the accounts ‘in principle only’.
He said: “When the audit is published by Ernst & Young, any significant changes found within it can be brought back to members for their scrutiny.”
Chairman John Pye added: “I realise this is an awkward situation for us to be in, so we’ve taken considerable legal advice on our position.
“I feel that it would be prudent to sign off these accounts in principle only, reserving the right to review any substantive alterations should they arise following completion from Ernst & Young.
“I am told that legally we can do this, provided we make a statement to that effect and publish it on the CPCA website.”
Cllr Mike Davey said: “I agree with what the committee is doing, but the wording of the legal statement is not only critical to me, but vital.
“As I have not seen that wording yet, I am not happy to put my name to it.”
Mr Pye replied: “Cllr Davey is quite correct, none of us have seen the wording of the legal statement as it hasn’t yet been written.
“We wanted to put the matter before this committee first to see if members were in agreement.
“If members are happy for us to proceed as I have indicated, our legal advisory team will draw up the statement, making it available to all of you for comments before being published on the website.
Cllr Nick Sandford said: “While I echo the concerns raised by Cllr Davey, I have to say that once this legal statement is published people will naturally think there is something fishy going on.”
Cllr Mark Goldsack added: “In the light of the poor excuse from Ernst & Young and the potential political outcome of this audit being late, especially as it will now be reported in the press, this is nothing short of a complete **** up.”
Cllr Mac McGuire said: “Regardless of who is at fault, and the reasons for this delay, we have a contract with Ernst & Young and this highly embarrassing event must not happen again.
“CPCA is a member of the Public Sector Audit Appointments Ltd, part of the Local Government Association, and even though Ernst & Young say everything will be completed by the first week of August, Cllrs Sandford and Goldsack are right – the political fallout from this could be catastrophic.”
Mr Pye said: “I’ve been as open and up front with members over this matter as could possibly be expected.
“It is indeed most regrettable that this delay has occurred, and I have to say that while they have apologised, I have not yet been given any kind of assurance from Ernst & Young that this sort of thing will not happen again in the future.”
Mr Cooke gave Mr Pye and the committee members his assurance on behalf of the firm that there would be no re-occurrence next year.
Mr Pye said: “I accept your assurance on behalf of Ernst & Young.”
Ernst & Young would only comment saying the Final Statement of Accounts for 2018/19 will be completed by the first week of August.
CPCA will publish its legal statement to that effect on the authority’s website.