The ultimate guide to procuring accountancy and audit services for trusts

Procuring accountancy and audit services for your school is a critical step to ensure compliance with regulations, accurate financial reporting, accountability, transparency, risk management, and enhanced credibility. But it’s not just about ticking boxes; it’s about making informed decisions that shape your school’s financial health and future. 

We’ll walk you through the entire process, from pre-procurement considerations to alternative procurement solutions. 

Pre-procurement Considerations

Before diving into the procurement process, it’s essential to lay a solid foundation. Here are the key considerations: 

1.1 Identify Your Needs 

The first step is to determine what accounting and audit services your trust requires. Identify the financial tasks you handle in-house and where you need external assistance, such as tax preparation, financial analysis, payroll, or auditing. 

1.2 Expertise in School Accounting 

Seek an accounting firm with experience in the educational sector. They should understand the specific accounting requirements for schools, including compliance with regulations, and offer guidance on best practices. 

1.3 Communication and Responsiveness 

Choose an accounting firm that communicates effectively and can explain complex financial concepts in a way you can understand. Their responsiveness to your queries is crucial. 

1.4 Cost and Value for Money 

Compare the fees of several firms to ensure you’re getting value for money. Consider potential cost savings and benefits the firm can bring to your school’s financial management. 

1.5 References and Reviews 

Before making a decision, check references and reviews of the accounting firms you’re considering. Talk to other trusts that have worked with these firms and gather feedback. Online reviews and ratings can also provide insight into their reputation. 

Ensuring Compliance with Educational Standards

Compliance is non-negotiable in the education sector. Here are the standards and regulations you need to consider: 

2.1 Financial Reporting Council’s Accounting Standards 

Ensure that your accounting services comply with the FRC’s Accounting Standards to maintain financial transparency. 

2.2 Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) Framework 

Adherence to the IIA’s International Professional Practices Framework (IPPF) is crucial for maintaining audit quality. 

2.3 Education and Skills Funding Agency Requirements 

Comply with ESFA requirements for regulated academies and academic organisations. 

2.4 Companies Act and Charities SORP 

Adhere to the Companies Act accounts standards and Charities SORP for comprehensive financial reporting. 

2.5 Compliance with Academies Financial Handbook 

Review the Academies Financial Handbook for guidance and compliance within academies. 

2.6 Public Sector Internal Audit Standards 

Follow Public Sector Internal Audit Standards to maintain the integrity of your internal audit processes. 

2.7 International Standard on Auditing (UK) 

Align your audit services with the International Standard on Auditing (UK) for standardized auditing processes. 

Key Considerations for Accountancy, Audit, and Financial Advisory Services

Now, let’s dive into the key aspects to consider when procuring accountancy and audit services: 

3.1 Annual Reporting and Financial Support 

Ensure that the services cover your annual financial statement report, governance statement, and other financial responsibilities. Understand the roles and statutory duties under the Companies Act 2006 and Academies Account Direction. 

3.2 Monthly Reporting and Financial Support 

Seek support for preparing monthly management accounts, including income and expenditure reports, cash flow forecasts, and balance sheets. A financial health dashboard can be a valuable addition. 

3.3 Academy Conversion and Establishment Services 

If your school is considering conversion to an academy, your accounting and audit services should include support for closure of local authority accounts, setting up chart of accounts, and producing academy financial statements. 

3.4 Tax Support 

Ensure the accounting firm offers tax and VAT advice and guidance, handles corporation tax forms and returns, and addresses employment tax issues. 

3.5 Internal Audit, Financial Advice, and Compliance Assessments 

Look for a broad range of internal audit services, including management accounting, risk management, compliance checks, and financial due diligence for academy conversions. 

3.6 Ad-Hoc Financial Support Services 

Incorporate performance benchmarking, advice for ‘value for money,’ and review and guidance on various financial policies and procedures. 

3.7 Training and Compliance 

Offer training opportunities for finance staff, governors, and management teams. Ensure compliance with regulatory filing requirements and the Companies Act 2006. 

3.8 Provision of Financial Management Software 

Consider accounting firms that offer software solutions for efficient financial record-keeping. 

Alternative Procurement Solutions

For schools considering alternative procurement options, here are some key insights: 

4.1 Frameworks 

Explore existing approved and compliant framework arrangements that can simplify your procurement process. These arrangements have already undergone due diligence checks. 

4.2 Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS) 

DPS is a flexible alternative to framework agreements, allowing new suppliers to join at any time. Education Buying offers its own Accountancy and Audit DPS, ensuring compliance with Public Contract Regulations 2015 and streamlining your procurement process. 

4.3 Bespoke Procurement 

If you choose to go the bespoke procurement route, follow these steps: create a request for quote, evaluate proposals, negotiate the contract, perform due diligence, and implement the system. 

Further Information

For those who prefer to use a compliant DPS, Education Buying provides specialist advice and templates. Create a free account on the Education Buying Portal and explore the ‘Accountancy & Financial Services’ section for expert guidance. 

Procuring accountancy and audit services for your school is a multifaceted process that demands careful consideration, compliance with educational standards, and a focus on efficiency. 

With the right partner and a strategic approach, you can ensure that your school’s financial well-being is in good hands. Education Buying is here to support your journey, whether you opt for existing frameworks, DPS, or a bespoke procurement process. Let’s make sound financial decisions for your school’s future.