University of Bath

Public sector audit in a period of austerity and reform

Dr Margaret Greenwood is exploring public sector audit during times of austerity and change, as part of this ESRC-funded research project.

The project forms part of a wider programme of research into public sector audit and accounting and will comprise three research studies.

A significant part of this programme is focused on local authorities and is being undertaken by Dr Greenwood through our Centre for Healthcare Innovation and Improvement. Research assistant Lei Tao is also working on the project, after graduating as a PhD in July 2015, having successfully defended his thesis on financial reporting in universities.

Study 1

Study 1 aims to estimate the effect of the new audit regime (effective from 2017) in which local authorities and NHS Trusts appoint their own auditors and in which the monitoring of audit quality is transferred to the Financial Reporting Council. This will be achieved by investigating the audit fees and audit quality of NHS Foundation Trusts, which are not subject to Audit Commission regulation, and NHS Trusts.

Study 2

Study 2 will exploit the availability of pre-audit financial statements to investigate the relationship between audit adjustments and audit fees in English local authorities. This will permit an estimation of the potential savings from an improvement in pre-audit financial reporting quality.

Study 3

Study 3 will investigate the impact of recent pressures on audit fees on the financial reporting quality of local authorities and NHS Trusts.