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Part 2: Timeliness in annual reporting

Local government: Results of the 2015/16 audits.

2.1
In this Part, we set out when local authorities adopted their annual reports and publicly released their annual reports and summary annual reports. We also discuss the importance of the statutory requirements for adopting annual reports and their public release.

2.2
The Local Government Act 2002 (the Act) requires local authorities to:

  • complete and adopt an annual report – containing audited financial statements and service performance information – within four months after the end of the financial year;
  • make the annual report publicly available within one month of adopting it; and
  • release an audited summary of the annual report within one month of adopting the annual report.

2.3
The statistics we use were compiled on 20 January 2017. Appendix 1 sets out more detail on when local authorities adopted and released their annual reports and summary annual reports.

Adopting annual reports

2.4
In 2015/16, Carterton District Council and Hurunui District Council missed the deadline to complete and adopt their audited annual report within four months after the end of the financial year. Figure 5 shows local authorities' performance in meeting the statutory deadline for adopting annual reports from 2011/12 to 2015/16.

Figure 5
Performance in meeting the statutory deadline for adopting annual reports, 2011/12 to 2015/16

Number of local authorities that did not meet the statutory deadline
2011/122012/132013/142014/152015/16
Adopting the annual report 1 6 3 2 2

2.5
Of the 76 local authorities that adopted their annual reports before the statutory deadline, 29 did so in the last week before the deadline. For 2014/15, 32 local authorities adopted their annual reports in the last week before the deadline.

Public release of annual reports and summary annual reports

2.6
We are concerned that the release of this information to the public has not improved since last year. A delay undermines effective accountability, which in turn undermines communities' continued trust and confidence in their local authority.

2.7
Three local authorities missed the one-month deadline for releasing their annual reports to the community, and seven missed the one-month deadline for releasing their summary annual reports. Figure 6 shows local authorities' performance in meeting the statutory deadline for releasing annual reports and summary annual reports from 2011/12 to 2015/16.

Figure 6
Performance in meeting the statutory deadline for releasing annual reports and summary annual reports, 2011/12 to 2015/16

Number of local authorities that met the statutory deadlines
2011/122012/132013/14*2014/15**2015/16***
Releasing the annual report 77 75 72 75 74
Releasing the summary annual report 75 74 71 73 70

* The 2013/14 statistics for public release dates do not include the local authorities that adopted their annual reports after 5 December 2014.

** Out of the 76 that had met the statutory deadline for completing and adopting the annual report.

*** Out of the 77 that had met the statutory deadline for completing and adopting the annual report.

The importance of timely reporting

2.8
Annual reports provide information that helps communities to assess how well their local authority performs. The information must be comprehensive and timely for communities to do this effectively.

2.9
Releasing annual reports and summary annual reports is an important part of a local authority's accountability to its community. The summary annual report contains the most understandable information for most readers, and it is the easiest document to circulate and make widely available.

2.10
We consider that many local authorities need to better project manage how they produce and publish their annual reports and summary annual reports.

2.11
Most local authorities publish their annual report on their website. In our view, local authorities should be able to publish their annual reports online within a few days of adopting them. We expect all local authorities to be able to do this.

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CoverLocal government: Results of the 2015/16 audits

978-0-478-44262-5