Part 1: Completing the school audits

Results of the 2019 school audits.

In this Part, we report on how many school audits have been completed, including audits of entities related to schools.

This year, the school audits were significantly affected by Covid-19. Of the 2451 school audits for 2019, we completed 1451 (59%) by the statutory deadline of 31 May 2020.1

Schools must provide their draft financial statements for audit by 31 March. With the country moving to Alert Level 3 on 23 March, closely followed by a move to Alert Level 4 and national lockdown on 25 March, all schools were closed just as auditors were in the early stages of their school audits. The lockdown meant that schools, service providers (who prepare financial statements on behalf of some schools), and auditors were required to work remotely. For schools, this included switching to teaching remotely.

Schools did not reopen fully until 18 May 2020 after the country moved to Alert Level 2, although some were partially open under alert level 3 from 28 April. The ability of schools, service providers, and auditors to work remotely differed significantly according to their situation. Schools also had other priorities during lockdown and at other Alert Levels. As a result, many audits could not progress as planned.

We made it clear early on that we would prioritise the quality of financial reporting by schools, and the quality of our audits, over timeliness. We appreciate the hard work by schools, service providers, and auditors that went into completing 59% of the school audits on time under such challenging circumstances. We have made steady progress on completing the schools audits since May. As at 31 October 2020, we have completed 2159 (88%) school audits.

For the last few years, about 100 (4%) of the previous years’ school audits have remained outstanding at the end of October. Because of the disruptions of Covid-19 and the significant delays experienced this year, as at 31 October 292 (12%) of the 2019 audits were still outstanding. Figure 1 shows the number of school audits outstanding by education region, for 2019 and for earlier years.

Figure 1
School audits outstanding as at 31 October, by region

Covid-19 has meant that more of the current year’s audits are outstanding as at 31 October than we would normally expect. The effects of Covid-19 on schools and auditors has been varied, so the impact on school audits differs by region.

Region 2019 Previous years
Auckland 109 24
Bay of Plenty, Waiariki 53 15
Canterbury and Chatham Islands 28 3
Hawke’s Bay, Tairāwhiti 27 15
Nelson, Marlborough, West Coast 6 2
Otago, Southland 16 2
Tai Tokerau 10 2
Taranaki, Whanganui, Manawatu 2 2
Waikato 26 2
Wellington 9 0
Entities controlled by schools 6 5
Total 292 72

Source: Office of the Auditor-General.

The details of the school audits that were outstanding at 31 October 2020 are on our website. It has been a difficult year for both schools and auditors for the reasons given above, and auditor delays have contributed to the large number of outstanding audits. Our auditors have plans in place to complete the remaining school audits.

Update on work to improve the timeliness of school audits

We have had problems with the timeliness of school audits since the Novopay system was introduced in 2012. Before this, about 95% of school audits were completed by the 31 May deadline. Schools have until 31 March to provide their financial statements for audit, but in our experience ensuring that all schools meet the 31 May statutory deadline relies on auditors receiving financial statements throughout February and March. For the past few years we have been working with the Ministry of Education (the Ministry) and the school sector to ensure that schools and auditors get the information they need as early as possible.

This year, the Ministry again met the agreed time frames for providing information to schools and auditors, as it did last year. Auditors received 2159 (88% of all schools) financial statements for audit by the statutory deadline of 31 March. This was significantly lower than the 93% we received by the March deadline for the 2017 year. However, Figure 2 shows the rate of receipt of the draft financial statements was slightly better this year than in the 2017 year until 23 March, when schools started to close under Alert Level 3. We have used 2017 as a comparison because the number of financial statements received by the statutory deadline for the 2018 audits was low (90%) as a result of the non-performance of one accounting service provider, which was responsible for over 100 audits.

Figure 2
Numbers of draft financial statements received for audit over the past few years

The rate of receipt of draft financial statements for audit has been returning to pre-Novopay levels (2011) in the past few years. In 2011, which is included in the figure, 95% of audits were completed by the May deadline. However, the closure of schools on 23 March 2020 due to Covid-19 meant more schools than usual missed the 31 March deadline for the 2019 audits.

Numbers of draft financial statements received for audit over the past few years

Source: Office of the Auditor-General.

Although the disruptions resulting from Covid-19 meant that a larger number of schools than normal missed the 31 March statutory deadline, auditors had received 2265 (92%) of draft financial statements for audit within two weeks of the deadline. Of the additional 106 draft financial statements received, 82 were received in the first week of April.

To ensure that audits go as smoothly as possible, schools, service providers, auditors, and the Ministry need to work together. Although the disruptions caused by Covid-19 have meant that we have not improved audit timeliness this year, Figure 2 does show an improvement in when schools provide financial statements for audit. We encourage all involved to keep working together to improve the timeliness of school audits and the accountability of schools.

Completing the school audits for previous years

As we have noted previously, timeliness of reporting is essential to good accountability. Although this has been disrupted this year, it is important that we continue to make progress with the schools that have previous years’ audits outstanding.

Figure 3 shows the number of outstanding audits by year. We completed 99 school audits from previous years since we last reported on the results of the school audits in November 2019. There are 72 previous years’ audits of 51 schools outstanding at 31 October this year, compared with 47 audits at the same time last year. This reflects several years of poor timeliness for school audits. The disruptions from Covid-19 have meant that auditors (and schools) have had less capacity this year to complete older outstanding audits, but we have still made good progress.

Figure 3
Outstanding audits, at 31 October 2020, by audit year

The number of previous years’ audits in arrears has increased compared to the same time last year. Although we have made some progress on older audits, the disruptions of Covid-19 means there has been less capacity to complete these audits.

Audit year As at 31 October 2020 As at 31 October 2019
2019 292
2018 44 112
2017 12 23
2016 9 14
2015 5 7
2014 1 2
2013 1 1
Total 364 159

Source: Office of the Auditor-General.

Kura kaupapa Māori

We have noted previously that the list of outstanding audits includes a high proportion of kura. In last year’s report, we said that we would like to work with Te Rūnanga Nui o Ngā Kura Kāupapa Māori o Aotearoa (the national collective body of Kura Kaupapa Māori Te Aho Matua communities) and the Ministry to better understand what is preventing kura from completing their audits so we could help to facilitate their completion. Our target was to bring the audits up to date (including the 2019 audits) by the end of this year. Unfortunately, this has been affected by the Covid-19 disruptions to the kura and our auditors. However, we have worked with the Ministry and Te Rūnanga Nui o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori o Aotearoa to progress these audits.

Last year, we reported that 10 kura had 21 audits from previous years (relating to the 2017 year and earlier) outstanding. There were also 18 audits from 2018 outstanding. As of 31 October 2020, only 22 of these 39 audits were still outstanding. We have made progress on the older audits, with only 14 audits remaining outstanding for four kura for multiple years. The oldest of these date back to 2015. As with our other arrears, Covid-19-related audit delays have affected our progress in clearing the outstanding audits.

1: The total number of school audits includes the audits of 43 entities related to schools. The 1451 that met the statutory deadline included audits completed up to 2 June 2020 because 31 May fell on a weekend.