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Public Sector reporting workshop, 19 January

This workshop led by experts from PwC and the National Audit Office (NAO) and focused on current and forward looking risks, reporting in extraordinary circumstances as well as reporting under the new FReM.

It covered insights and examples from top reporting organisations along with key findings from our own research. These workshops give participants the opportunity to share their experiences with other like-minded professionals.

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1:18:32

Transcript

Phil Stokes:

Good morning, everyone. I am Phil Stokes from PwC. I lead our audit practice for Government, Public Sector, Health, Education and Charities, and it's my pleasure this morning to be working in collaboration with the National Audit Office to bring our workshop on Public Sector reporting.

It's been quite a year since about 120 of us assembled in person at a hotel in Charing Cross for the last workshop, where we looked at best practice in Public Sector public reporting, been quite a year since then. It hasn't diminished the interest in transparency of reporting in the Public Sector or indeed in any sector. We didn't run our Building Public Trust Awards in October, which is what we normally do, for obvious reasons, but we have been running a series of workshops like this one for each of the sectors of the economy that we look at. We run 14 different sectors of which Public Sector reporting is one of the 14. Last year, we had about 120 people gathered in that hotel at Charing Cross. This morning, we have had over 270 people register from more than 125 different organisations, so welcome to you all.

I do think back to last March and April and through the summer, when I would hear people talking on the radio and saying, ‘isn't it lovely that lockdown has given us a gift of time, I am taking up a new hobby or I am learning a new language.’ I was thinking, ‘wow, I've never actually been busier.’ And I think the same is true for many of you in your organisations, who’ve been at the forefront dealing with the UK’s response to the pandemic. So, we’re going to highlight some of the best practice that we've seen through reporting this morning, and we are going to talk through some of the lessons learned.

We’ve got some great guest speakers, I'll take you through the agenda, and then I'll hand over to Steven from the NAO, who will take you through the first polling question. Here in the agenda, just a little bit of setup from Steve and myself and then we'll have a welcome message from Gareth Davies, Comptroller and Auditor General of the NAO. Then we'll spend about 20 minutes running through some best practice, both from the Public Sector and from the commercial sector, a split session from the PwC team and the NAO. Then, we'll have three speakers. We will have Anna, Andrew, and Ruth representing Great Ormond Street Hospital, the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy and UK Research and Innovation, talking you through the impact of the last 12 months on their own organisation. Then, we'll have a session from the team from Vikki, Max, and Vikki’s team from Treasury, just talking through what's coming next. Then, we'll have a chance for some final questions. We will try and take some questions as we go through, so we'll make it as interactive as we can.

Next slide, Deanna, just shows who you’ve got talking from the PwC and the NAO side. Charlie and Deanna will take us through some of the best practice, along with Rachel, Courtnay and Catriona, and Steve is up next, and I am going to hand over to Steve from the NAO to take us through the next piece of the session.

Steven Corbishley:

Well thanks, Phil. Good morning everybody. It's absolutely fantastic just to see, at least, even in this virtual setting just how many people have joined us today. I am Steve Corbishley, I am a Director at the National Audit Office, working alongside PwC to help take us through some of the challenges and some of the reflections over those challenges we've all faced. Whether that's as preparers or indeed as auditors during the last year, reflections of mine and building on what Phil has just said. It has been a challenging year, which we are still working through of course. But for the preparer community and the audit committee, it is absolutely fantastic the way those communities have responded to keep the financial reporting cycle going and actually being really clear about what it is, as we want to say.

Just by way of background in the Central Government sector, the key challenges for us was that usually we'd end up probably certifying, allowing people to lay and publish around 80% of the annual reports and accounts before the Parliamentary summer recess. For obvious reasons that went to about 50%, and indeed since September, we've been working with Central Government colleagues as many of you will know to deliver that other 50%. There's been a variety of reasons why that statistic is as it is.

For example, preparers obviously working through the challenges of accounting form, and reporting on and thinking about new schemes that the Government have announced, for us obtaining evidence in this virtual world, and anything else in between. But it's clear that everyone has risen to that challenge, as we will see today, particularly as we look through some of the best practice, some of the good examples of annual reporting, and as we hear from some of our guests today. That scale of ambition and innovation hasn't been dulled and indeed probably has been amplified by recent events as well. I certainly have been really impressed by everyone's professional commitment to keep that annual reporting show on the road. We've got really a good chance to reflect today and what made that work, and indeed to learn from each other in terms of some of those good practice examples.

But, to kick us off what we've got, using the Slido, if we can turn to that slide, is just to start your thinking in all of this, and just ask the question: “What were the key challenges in your most recent reporting cycle?” You can think about that, if you can get into Slido and just set out one or two words and will format as a word cloud, and we'll just see what the overarching challenges were in your most recent reporting cycle.

Perhaps, we'll spend half a minute on that. I can already see, remote working, yes, we've all had to deal with that, aiming to how do we keep in touch, how would you communicate with each other there as well. COVID, number of COVID observations in there as well, assumptions, valuations, post balance sheet events, working from home, timetabling, last minute audit changes. I guess that's inevitable, he says bravely. Delayed audit timetable, redeployment, pandemic spin-offs, timescales, responses, and pensions. Yes, I have some experience of the pension issues, which some of us have had to face this year. IFRS 16, the delayed, maybe not so delayed for some of you; but for some of us it has been delayed, and we will hear little bit about that later on in any case. Resources, the volume of work.

Well, I think that's fantastic, thank you, some really good reflections, which well I can see where those come from. Well I've talked about some of the challenges that we all face today, but we thought we would ask, certainly from Central Government, but hopefully from a wider perspective as well. The Comptroller and Auditor General, Gareth Davies, head of the National Audit Office to offer some of his reflections on the last year's annual reporting process and indeed ambitions that we all achieved.

Gareth Davies:

My name is Gareth Davies, and I am delighted to be introducing this year's Public Sector financial reporting workshop. After an extraordinary cycle for 2019-2020, where working together, finance teams and audit teams have completed the production and audit of financial statements, working fully remotely. The year has also shown us how important financial reporting for Government accounts is. There's been a very high level of interest in how taxpayers’ money is being used in responding to the pandemic, both on the economic response, the health response, and we've seen the degree of interest throughout the period on what that means for the performance and finances of public bodies. So, it's been a hugely important year, and we've all learned a lot.

I just wanted to draw out some really key themes that we think the scope for further progress on, even in the current circumstances, recognising that FRAB (Financial Reporting and Analysis Branch) has approved again a streamlined set of reporting requirements for 2021. We'd like to see a little bit more of frank and honest reporting of the risks and challenges posed by the current situation, how organisations have managed those risks and what it's meant for their spending, and the controls they've needed to secure value for money. We see some really good examples in 2019-2020 of that, but we think there's more that can be done.

It's also really important we think that this transparent disclosure of complex technical judgments estimates that have been made in the year, we have seen more of those required by the circumstances created by the pandemic. And again, some really good examples of clear and transparent explanation, but overall, we think more could be doing that.

Some of the point we've made before, but it was also evident this year is the importance of good quality trend reporting as part of the financial report. Helping to set this year's figures in context, particularly where there are unusual features in a particular year, are really helpful to be able to say, well against the normal trend here are some important features that is necessary to understand if you're going to get a full picture from these things.

We also are very keen to continue to progress on better quality, non-financial reporting, and this is becoming obviously increasingly important in areas like sustainability, and also in how employee data is presented, describing how organisations are becoming more diverse and inclusive. So, significant areas of progress being made there, but also some way to go.

There's also, we are seeing really strong growth in the use of different forms of accessible reporting formats. So, alongside the traditional downloadable PDF of the annual report and accounts we've seen good use of videos, infographics, short form summaries, all tailoring to the needs of different audiences. Again, we'd encourage intelligent use of those alternative formats to engage more users. So, in all of those areas we've seen some great examples in 2019-2020, and our team will be sharing those as they go through the workshop, and I hope you find it a really helpful exercise.

Thank you.

Steven:

Hand over now to PwC and NAO colleagues, where we just wanted to really highlight some of the good practice that we've seen in your annual report and accounts. Hopefully, this will give an idea of that innovation I talked about that is clearly there, including that drive to keep the transparency agenda on message. Over to you guys.

Charlie Martin:

Thank you, Steve, and good morning everybody. My name is Charlie Martin, I am a senior manager with PwC. So, I suppose we reflected on this year and it being a different year in terms of annual reporting. Normally, we would consider there are nine key areas of an annual report that we consider. They range from governance to organisation, but also risk. And risk was the area we thought we would want to highlight today and share with you some good practice that we've seen, both in the Public Sector, but also to share a couple of examples from the Private Sector as well, because we think there was a consistent theme with the risks and how they have changed, particularly, during the course of the year.

But starting that off, what you'll see here is, the principles of a good annual report, these are the four aspects we always come back to. Whenever we consider any of the nine areas that I mentioned previously, whenever we consider any of those areas these are the four aspects we come back to. Ranging from Accountability, making sure you're balanced in what you say and actually you've got a clear action plan about what you want to take forward, so you're held accountable for it. Transparency, so you’re being honest with your analysis and not being too overly positive, that sort of perspective, that it gives you the frank analysis, and equally using your data in an appropriate way, so not being again overly positive. You have Accessibility, so that we will come back to and define as being about concise summaries, but is equally thinking about how you engage with your key stakeholders, so they will always be different for each of yourselves, but coming back to how you meet their needs.

Our last point is Understandable. There will be acronyms, there will be concepts that are particular to each organisation, but it's about how that is translated across to them in a plain and simple way to understand, and that might be the language you use, but it also might be the diagrams you use. So, these four areas, these four principles are ones which we come back to, and you'll see when we come to the examples. They are ones which we will reference to demonstrate why we thought these all examples were important.

Like I say, risk, why do we focus on risk? It is obvious reasons with COVID, the risk reporting changed, the risk landscape changed, but what we often see with risk even before COVID was, I suppose, some common challenges you often come across. These challenges you might well relate to, because they are often ones about risk landscape. What is your current risk landscape, and actually what is your risk appetite from it? Is there a clear link between risks and performance, strategic priorities, and risk management as it goes through your annual report? Is it coherent, in terms of the narrative, often bits are put together by different people? And then lastly, looking at emerging risks, how many of us would have been able to predict the pandemic, when we went through the last reporting cycle?

So, what you'll see there on the right is, some analysis we did during the summer, with what were the most commonly identified emerging risks, and you'll see obviously climate change and COVID were there. But I suppose, these are the challenges, these are the reflections we ourselves have when thinking about it, but I suppose we want to flip it back to yourself now. So, we are thinking of doing a Slido poll, we’ve got a question for yourself as to what new risk did your organisational report in recent reporting cycle in 2019-2020? On the Slido poll, you have a chance to have an open response, and we will see what new risks everyone faced.

This is showing the responses that have come through, we're not going to do this as a word cloud, but of course these will share afterwards, but I can see regulation came through, COVID of course, UK transition, I imagine that's referring to Brexit. Yeah response to COVID and the impact of COVID that makes sense. Valuation of assets, interesting, that's probably to do with I imagine COVID might have had an example, I know there was some guidance issued by RICS just after the pandemic was declared. Return to business as usual, yes. The available workforce, I suppose yeah, with either being them self-isolating or having to remote work. What it shows us basically is actually that there was quite a variety of new risks that came through this year for organisations. COVID would be the obvious example, but it helps to illustrate that with any year, and even this year, there are always new risks to consider.

So, what we are going to do now is, we are going to show you several examples, we have 11 in total. On there we will show you the snippet that we think that was the good example, but equally explain to you why we thought it was a good example, and also go back to those key principles I mentioned at the beginning, the four principles. But for ease, as we mentioned, the slides are going to be shared afterwards, so we will also include a link to the annual report and the page reference where you can find them. After today's session you will be able to then look at those accounts particularly and so peruse them for your own content. Move on to the first one.

Courtnay Ip Tat Kuen:

Hello everyone, my name is Courtnay. I am an audit principal at the National Audit Office, and part of the team working with Steven, Rachel and Cat. To give you a flavour of the content, I have included in the annual request practice guide, which is publishing probably this year. Cat and I will be going through some Public Sector examples of where investors have been well presented in 2019-2020, and then hopefully they'll give you some inspiration ideas to think about as you start to draft your 2020-2021 annual reports.

The first one we've got on the screen is an example from UK Atomic Energy Authority. And what we liked about this one is that there is, as well as the broader risks, there is a specific section of key risks relating to COVID-19, and then these are nicely linked directly to the organisation's strategic priorities. You can clearly see that there is a golden thread that is going through the whole of the annual report.

Next, we have an example from BEIS. In addition to a specific risk section detailing the department's response to COVID risks, we thought here it was really refreshing to see a statement from the organisation around the internal management processes for responding to COVID-19, and the impact that the pandemic is having on the risk management framework. The statement also does include how the organisation intends to monitor this risk management process going forward.

The third example we've got is from Arts Council England. And here we particularly liked that the council presented an in-depth overview of the external risks facing the business. It's clear from the screenshot shown, maybe it's a little blurry, the annual report that the COVID was the main risk of the year, but Arts Council England also showed consideration of other notable external risks, such as EU exit and their funding structure.

And finally, from Network Rail. We really like this diagram, because it uniquely categorises business risk in terms of external impact and also the severity of the risk that it could pose to one of its major stakeholders which are rail passengers. So, the categories are then linked directly to the strategic objectives and sets out the context for the narrative that follows in the rest of the annual report, I'll pass you over to Cat.

Catriona Sheil:

Thanks, Courtnay. The next example is from Highways England. In this example, the box on the left kind of outlies the principal risk at a high level, and then that's followed by a more detailed analysis within that annual report. These risks are then mapped against impact and likelihood and you get a picture of both the kind of raw risk, and the current risk which is when the controls were applied. That's clearly shown with the RAG status to indicate severity. There was also a narrative to support, with example, which explained how this dashboard is used by the Board, and how it therefore fits in with the organisation's governance structure. Overall, we thought, it's really clear graphical representation, which allows you to, at a high level, really see the current status of risk but also at the same time if you spend some time looking at it, it also actually conveys quite a lot of complex information in quite a simplistic format.

Next example please. This example is taken from HMRC’s account, and it's a graphic which shows how the risk management process links to the control framework, and then how risk reporting is fed to management and the Board. There is also a narrative alongside this diagram that contains context around the changes made to the risk management process in 2019 and future actions in 2021. We thought it was a good diagram that’s easy to understand how the risk management process works, but also allows the reader to understand how the organisation is striving for continuous improvement.

Next example please. This example is taken from the Crown Estate’s account. It sets out each risk in a table which shows clear mapping to the organisation's KPIs. Therefore, you can see how their risk may impact the KPIs and the mitigations in place. Then there is also a column, which also talks about the level of impact and uncertainty due to COVID-19. It is always good to see a clear consideration of how the pandemic may change the risk profile of the organisation.

Next example please. This is from Department of International Trade’s accounts. It shows how the different committees feed up to the Board and the Executive Committee. Information about the members of the committees, the frequency of the meetings, and the overall aims of the committees. This was good because usually this information is just set out in text format, so we like the way that this innovative format is, it’s easy to understand how the committee's feed into reporting up to the board.

Thank you. I will hand it back to Charlie.

Charlie:

Thank you.

For this next slide, this is one of the private sector examples I mentioned. We have three, we are going to illustrate. The first is, is from the Land Securities Group. What the diagram here is showing you is the principal risks both before and after the COVID pandemic is taken into account. So, with the Y and X axis, you'll see it shows the impact and the probability. What they have shown is, is the impact specifically of COVID on their principal risks. This helps to illustrate, how that is changed in particular to COVID, but then underneath, they have also then, which isn't illustrated, but in the actual body of the annual report, they then detailed separately what the impact has meant. They go into further as to why they have then updated their risk assessment in light of COVID.

For the next one, we have the Virgin Money Plc. So, what we like about this is, it talks about the impact of COVID again both pre and after COVID, but they've done it in a way which rather than do it visually, they tried to keep it coherent with regard to their principal risks. You will see, for example, on the top one with regard to credit risk they’ve just simply left it as a simple arrow underneath about the change in the year and illustrating how it's changed. Obviously, with the credit risk, it didn't really change pre or post COVID, but they have reflected with the financial risk, for instance, it did change after COVID. It illustrated how, simply to the reader, the impact of COVID on their principal risks. But they’ve kept the coherence together as well, because they've also then, to the right, you'll see put together the mitigating actions and how it aligns to their strategic priorities. So, you might remember, at the beginning when we talked about the key principles, that point about understandability and accountabilities, making sure you link back to your strategy.

And I suppose for the last example we wanted to illustrate today, this is from Senior Plc. They have gone with the options of simply highlighting the pandemics is a new risk. If we stood back and ask ourselves, how many organisations have pandemic as a risk on their strategic risk register, I imagine not many, but what they want they have honestly reflected is it is a new risk for them. But then they have detailed, additional detail explanation as to how it is affecting themselves and affecting any other principal risks that they have. Lastly, it also includes a discussion that you see at the bottom regarding the impact on the business both from a direct point of view and an indirect point of view.

So, that brings to an end this section, we now move on to our discussion.

Deanna Kelion:

So, we’re going to stop presenting for a second, because we are moving on to our section where we're going to hear some views from some of the participants in the call. We've got Anna Ferrant, who is Company Secretary of Great Ormond Street Hospital; Ruth Elliot, Financial Director of UK Research and Innovation, and Andrew Firth, who is head of reporting at BEIS.

So, to start off, I'm going to hand over to Rachel from the NAO, who is going to be asking Anna some questions. Please do put your own questions into the chat panel, and we can include those as well.

Rachel Nugent:

Hello everyone, I am Rachel Nugent, I am an audit manager at the National Audit Office, and I am responsible for the work that we do jointly with PwC on improving Public

sector reporting. I am really pleased today to introduce Anna Ferrant. Great Ormond Street Hospital won the award for excellence in reporting in the Public Sector in 2018-2019. So, Anna it would be really interesting to gain from your insights and your experience of 2019-2020 given the new circumstances we all found ourselves in. Without further ado, Anna I'd like to ask you experience of the financial reporting in 2019-2020, whether there were any particular challenges you faced?

Anna Ferrant:

Hi everybody. Yes, so I work Great Ormond Street. It's a paediatric provider specialised in highly specialised care for children presenting with complex and rare diseases.

What I want to do is just provide a little bit of a context to the challenges that we had, because it was a year of two parts essentially for us in 2019-2020. When COVID hit, we weren't aware at that time, in that final quarter of that year, just the scale and nature and impact it would have on adult and paediatric care. So, our response was to work with our partners in the NHS and Public Sector to have a collective response to this. What we did was, we extended our intensive care beds, and we got ready to accept paediatric patients with COVID.

And of course, as the pandemic started to hit us in that first surge, we realised that the extra capacity was not needed for paediatric patients suffering from COVID, but it was there actually to support our adult care providers in our locality in North Central London. So, what we did was we turned to support them by providing services where we could take general paediatric patients from them, to allow them to have additional capacity and staffing resources. So, it really wasn't about-turn in the way in which we work, but it was a fantastic opportunity to work in partnership with our colleagues. We also extended our registration. We extended it so that we could accept patients from the locality who were struggling with mental health issues, children and young people and who needed to be detained under the Mental Health Act. We didn’t have registration for that before but we quickly that over these weekends, working with our colleagues at CQC, and we accepted those patients. So, they wouldn’t have to sit in A&E and wait for treatment during the COVID pandemic, which would have been just unacceptable.

More than 80 of our staffs went out to work in the community. We provided equipment to the community as well. Our children’s acute transport service also picked up adult patients and took them usually as paediatric patients.

We changed our governance framework. We looked at our risks. We reviewed all of our risks and ensured that our mitigations met with the current operational context that we are in. We reassessed and we worked with gold, silver, bronze command, which were required by national direction. We ensured we met multiple times a week and reported to our staff, and we've realigned our directorates, so that we could actually streamline our communications. We remodelled all of our clinical pathways for the pathways where we will continue to provide them, so that we could ensure that our staff were available when our staff went off sick.

But that wasn't the whole story of the year, and we are really conscious of that when we were writing the Annual Reports, because we'd already started the year looking at realigning our strategy and refreshing it, moving from a house strategy. Yes, we had a house for diagram for our strategy and we've moved to, I'm very excited to say, a rocket. Which if you can imagine for this year when I'm reporting, my rocket will be arriving hopefully at lots of different planets, so I am quite looking forward to that. Stressing the diagrammatic approach to actually getting the message across. But we worked and consulted with our patients and parents and families during the early part of that year, and we were looking at that strategy in terms of our partnership working, enhancing that through that strategy, enhancing our digital innovation, and enhancing what we gave to our staff, actually developing our staff, because we’d recognised that we needed to improve the culture at Great Ormond Street.

So, it was really important that the Annual Report reflected all of that, and so we agreed that we would give the story of the year in that way, but have a significant section outlining the risks and the issues that we had faced throughout the year. To show that it wasn't business as usual COVID for the whole year, and that we had actually achieved other things as well.

Rachel:

That’s fantastic Anna, that is really interesting to get that frontline perspective and then also how that fed into your Annual Report last year. I should have said at the beginning, that please do feel free to ask questions in the chat box for Anna if you would like to.

Based on your experiences from this year Anna, what do you think of the opportunities for the 2020-2021 financial year going forward?

Anna:

So, when we talk about opportunities I really struggled with that word, I've got to be honest with you, because actually we are all in the middle of an emergency in a pandemic and it just doesn't feel comfortable saying the word opportunities. But really, the reason why I stressed change to our strategy, was because actually what has happened is that we've had to operationally change so quickly, and to really change our focus. In doing so, we've realised some of the things in our strategy so much quicker than I think we would have with the plans that we were putting in place earlier in 2019-20. If I give you some examples. Back in May 2019, we bought in our electronic patient record, which is bringing hundreds of systems of paper and electronic systems together into one place that clinicians can access, but also it provided an opportunity for patients to be able to access their information as well through something called MyGOSH, and it's a portal. Now that portal, when the pandemic hit, we realised that obviously we didn't want to be bringing patients who are acutely ill and their families into London. So, the idea was that we needed to move to a virtual platform, and in many areas, we could conduct outpatient services via a virtual platform, and we used the electronic patient record for that. Taking account of all of the governance issues, we brought that on stream very quickly, and it's been quite successful and of course we're assessing that to see just what else we can learn from that.

But we also lived into our partnership working, we wanted to extend that and to be a more active working with our local and national and international partners. Of course, I've already given you examples where we accepted patients, general paediatric patients, patients struggling with mental health. Our staff volunteered into the community, we gave equipment, and we also partnered always with our fantastic charity, and with local companies, who then supported staff with food, with accommodation, and with car parking which was fantastic.

The final thing was living into our focus in enhancing our culture. It's a risk on our risk register. It's something that we plan to do. We launched our people strategy previous to 2019-2020, and of course, a lot of the actions that we wanted to do in terms of enhancing communications with our staff and providing development opportunities. Our Learning Academy that we launched, obviously there to provide training and development opportunities for staff, sort of refocused itself so that it provided key training, respiratory training, reminders and upskilling for staff, who wanted to go out into the community to remind them of some of the training they had done previously. And our communication framework, we've got a lot of benefit interestingly out of gold, silver and bronze, and the regular communications that went out across the hospital. We still have a weekly briefing with our Chief Executive on a Thursday, and that's so important in these times when many of us are working from home or in different locations, trying to bring everyone together. We've been a one site hospital, so it was a big shift to go to home working and remote working but actually it's worked well. We've got obviously things to learn from that as well. So, I hope from that perspective it gives you an overview of the things that we realised much quicker than we would have under normal circumstances.

Rachel:

Fantastic, thank you, Anna. I just have one more question for you, before we move on to the other guests. Are there any other tips from your experience you could share with us about ensuring Public Sector reporting is transparent and balanced?

Anna:

Certainly. I think it's all about the planning. I am a planner, I plan everything. I write everything down, my team will, one of them is on the call today. I like to plan and we're planning this year's report now.

It's so important to have a framework and an idea of where you want to go with the Annual Report and how you're going to lay everything out. My skeleton if I call it for my Annual Report is always the strategy. If you've got a robust strategy, one that actually you can really live into, and write and draw and make it real, that provides a really strong framework to build whatever happens throughout the year. Obviously then the planning as well. Also, the challenge again this year will be that many of my content experts are people that are facing the pandemic head on and are out there on the front line. So, I’m not going to go and keep chasing them. I am very privileged in my position to have access to an awful lot of information, and I can draft content for them, obviously they've got data they share with me, but we can together bring that to fruition. It really is about partnership working about developing the Annual Report as well, and you find ways and means to get there so that you don't tip people over, who are very frail at the moment as well with so much going on.

Rachel:

Absolutely. Thank you so much for your insights Anna. It’s been really useful. I am going to handover to Deanna and the other guests as well.

Deanna:

Hi there and thanks so much, Anna, that was really interesting. We've got now, Andrew Firth from the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, otherwise known as BEIS, and also Ruth Elliot from UK Research and Innovation to give us some of their thoughts around reporting in FY20. We'll start with Andrew, if you could introduce yourself, a little bit of context around the workings of BEIS, and let us know a little bit around your experience of reporting in FY20, and how you dealt with some of the challenges?

Andrew Firth:

Hi, I’m Andrew Firth, I am the Head of Financial Reporting in BEIS and my responsibility goes across the financial statements and the Annual Report. My focus today is going to be primarily on the annual report, of course talking about the inter-linkages between them.

For those who don't know, Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy was created 5 years ago now. Its predecessor was Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Energy and Climate Change, so we have a very wide and broad remit. One best way to think about what BEIS does is basically if it doesn't fit somewhere in a nice department elsewhere ends up in BEIS.

Just on that note, one of the main challenges for 2019-2020 that we found was, there's been quite a stir from number of people on the call and also in terms of pairing to link together the Annual Report and the Financial Statements, so making sure there's a consistent and coherent story. That's been particularly challenging, because typically what you have is, you have an election which sets a Government in place. These Governments last between four and five years, now we got the fixed Parliament Act, they'll have their own priorities and there'll be a spending review which will last the same period of time. Each year you will have single departmental plan, so an annual single department plan, basically the priorities for the department. Then you report on them in the Annual Report and that would all be consistent.

However, particularly in 2019-2020, we saw a change in Government - three times in effect. We had Theresa May’s Government, which then fell and Boris's first Government, followed by Boris's second re-election. So, three Governments in effects, three slightly different priorities, all being conservative, but all with a different slant so three sets of priorities developing throughout the year. That was one of our main challenges even before COVID, talking through that narrative and getting that all consistently discussed. That will definitely be a challenge again this year, at least we have consistency with the Government.

My second main challenge, I think, was primarily around the timeliness of information and getting things out. When we think about the Annual Report and accounts, everyone is very keen to try their best to get to a pre-summer recess, because users will obviously want timely information. There is obviously challenges from an audit perspective, such as people have mentioned around valuations and the uncertainties.

One of the main challenges that we saw was not just taking a step back from the financial statements, particularly the annual report was getting ministerial clearance for sections of the annual report. As everyone has mentioned COVID offensively became a significant issue very quickly in late March, but you have effectively 11 months of the year where we were, so to speak, business as usual.

Curbing the enthusiasm of ministers who have many submissions going across their desks about all the great work they are doing to fight the pandemic and build the recovery of the UK economy that are going through in April, May, June, and getting them to focus on what had been achieved in 2019-2020 was a real challenge for us. Particularly, we always talk about our highlights and they are very keen to tell us what they're doing at this point in time, rather than what they have been doing in the year before. So, curbing their enthusiasm I think was one thing as well as reporting the impact of COVID, at least for this year, we now have a set of priorities which incorporate COVID and then we will develop our risks, we obviously have developed our risks in relation to that.

You asked the question earlier about the opportunities for 2021. One of the biggest opportunities would be that there shouldn't be any more big uncertainties in terms of events that could happen, that could change the reporting in such a way that COVID did and it's now known we live with it as we are at the moment and we will continue to report on it. So hopefully we will be able to get to, that's my first point, a more integrated set of accounts in the Annual Report rather than being side-tracked by the significant thing that was COVID - that was the main challenge last year.

Phil:

Thank you. So, I think we will move across to Ruth. If you'd like to introduce yourself and the same question around challenges for last year, picking up anything that Andrew has said that sparked a new thought.

Ruth Elliot:

Thank you, yes, Hello everyone. I am Ruth Elliot, Finance Director at UK Research and Innovation. We are relatively a new organisation just coming up to our third birthday at the end of this financial year. I have been Finance Director since UKR&I was established in April 2018.

We were formed several research councils and Innovate UK and Research functions of HEFCE. So, our challenges in the early years have really been about bringing numbers together from eight separate ledgers and trying to make sense of producing an annual report and accounts for what was previously nine separate organisations. Our business is generally focused on funding a lot of research in universities and other research organisations, and also supporting innovative businesses, but we also have a number of research operations that we run in house and we also have quite a wide range of activities that we need to report on. So, again, over the last couple of years, bringing that into integrated story and explaining the value that creating UK Research and Innovation has been able to bring, has been very important.

We’ve also had evolution really in our current corporate reporting. We published a strategic prospectus in May 2018. So, in our first Annual Report and accounts we were able to look back on reports on how we were starting to form again some of these very high-level objectives that UKR&I have been set when it was established. Last year, in the second year, we were able to report against the delivery plans, which UKR&I and each bit’s constituent councils had published around June 2019. But this year, for the first year, we’ll actually have a published corporate plan, against which we can start to give a more integrated and honest account of, in the year did we really achieve what we had set out to achieve and we were developing at the moment, a balance performance scorecard against which, again, we can hopefully transparently and robustly evaluate our performance.

So, really in the last financial year we were pretty lucky actually in that we were able to meet the summer recess timetable, which went into year end. We were having a very good interim audit, we’d got together a plan of how we are going to pull together the annual report and the performance report section, so that was well underway by the time COVID hit. We actually didn't take advantage of any of the streamlined reporting options because by the time those were published, we were actually quite well advanced with our preparations.

So, I think for us the main challenge is really around working from home, that was obviously very new thing for us to go from being in a few different offices around the country, to 120 different offices, as we all moved our desks at home. We had a few systems issues in the first few days and, as many did, as they switched to working from home which again gave us a few issues, particularly placing the ledgers for year end. But in our Annual Report, we pivoted some of the content to talk very much about the risks that dealing with COVID had brought us, and also the initiatives that UK Research and Innovation was taking to support the sectors it works with, in response to the pandemic and also support research into vaccines and ventilators, and so on.

It was interesting actually when I looked at the reports at the weekend, I felt how much of the content you can see the world has moved on actually so much. We were talking a lot on last year’s Annual Report about Project Pit Lane, for example, which was working with industry to develop new types of ventilator. Already, it feels like we've moved on in the pandemic and we we’re also at that stage in reporting vaccine research, which of course now is coming to fruition and so it’s really exciting for us to be able to see the contribution that we've made. Those really were the main challenges.

Deanna:

Thank you very much, Ruth, dropping off before, for a second there. I think that's really interesting, and I was just saying around some of the changes to the governance throughout the period as well as the frontline activities can have quite an impact on reporting. Do you have any or started thinking about your reporting for FY21 and some of the practical or planning issues that you might be learning lessons from in the last year?

Ruth:

Yes, we have. We have taken a high-level structure for the document through our Audit Committee. We have a timetable and a high-level structure agreed, which is great. Throughout. last year's reporting period we had a new Chief Executive. We went into the process of one accounting officer and had a different accounting officer signing off last year’s annual report as one of her first new tasks. But since then, we've published, as I said, the first corporate plan for UK Research and Innovation, which really sets out our new vision and mission, obviously heavily influenced by our new chief executive of how UK Research and Innovation should be a steward, if you like, for the research and innovations of ecosystems within the UK. So, we’re really thinking now about how we can use the annual report, performance report to describe how they are moving that agenda forward and how we are supporting the sectors that we work with and supported them through the pandemic and we will look to do that in the future. And again, how we can use the balance scorecard that we are now developing to really report on performance against the corporate plan to give a transparent and clear evaluation of how we are performing against the priorities that we set ourselves in the corporate plan for this year.

Deanna:

Thank you again, Ruth, Andrew, and Anna for those views, that’s really great to get some views from sources on the ground as to how you found it this year. And actually Ruth, you mentioned some of the streamlined options being offered by Treasury, very well leading on to our next section, where we've got Vikki Lewis, Sally King and Max Greenwood, joining us just to take us through some of the measures in place currently and going forward. So, shall I hand over to Max.

Max Greenwood:

Good morning everyone. I am Max from the Treasury's Government Financial Reporting team. As Deanna mentioned Sally, Vikki and I will be taking you through our section, which is navigating the reporting landscape.

So, I know Steve’s Slido earlier gave an overview of the challenges of financial reporting in 2019-20, I won't go through these again but just mainly focus on resourcing and other challenges, you've got them on the left-hand side of the slide.

In determining a suitable approach for 2020-2021, we would evaluate the effectiveness of the measures last year. So, to do this we sent out a RASIG survey to the network, so thank you everyone that’s contributed. We also had in depth discussions with team leads, and we did our own assessment on annual reports and accounts. Just going to take you through the slides in the bottom of the page, so this shows the laying dates of different departments. You've also got a cumulative frequency graph on the right-hand side just showing the laying dates with the gap for summer recess. This year we’d hope that that moves to the left but understand that a lot of the challenges faced last year still exists this year.

On this slide, I've tried to go through the measures that we offered and how effective they were. Based on the feedback and guidance, we've now issued a new PES paper for this year going into the annual reporting guidance, that’s on non-finance. The main focus this year was on flexibility. The challenges faced by departments seem to be very different in terms of the pressures felt, and what times they are felt during the year. This led to a really varied feedback and the RASIG responses, particularly in qualitative comments, where the department is feeling very strongly, for example around IFRS 16 implementation and also on laying dates. So, what we wanted to do is to come back with the flexibility of departments to determine how they wanted to resolve those issues this year.

Just taking you through some of the charts on the slides, so you've got each of the measures that we offered. The dark grey shows whether these measures were applied and how many departments applied them. Light grey shows that the department knew about the measure, but didn't apply it. One of the main reasons for this seems to be how fast the measures were put out there, potentially this year as we put out the guidance a little bit earlier, we're hoping there is higher uptake with the reduced reporting where it's needed. Then the red shows where the departments weren’t aware of the communication on the measures. For example, while we put it in the PES paper, but it wasn't necessarily picked up by all departments. That’s something we are going to work on this year in terms of making it very clear in the PES paper, what measures are actually being offered.

I also want to mention that this year we've really taken it as an opportunity because of the feedback that we've got back. Once we eventually go back to the main reporting, we are planning on, first, building back better, so making sure that the guidance we put in the FReM going forward takes account of what we've taken out, and really focuses on what's important, and that's something that we'll be doing going forward, so once we have returned full reporting.

Just talking through the measures and guidance offered this year. So, on the right-hand side you've got the planned future use of measures and guidance by departments, saying how likely they are to use those this year with obviously a very high uptake. Our analysis of the performance reports also showed there was compliance on reporting by departments. This year we are going to offer similar reduced reporting measures. This was agreed by FRAB in November, and it's been communicated also in the PES paper.

Just to give a bit of an overview, there has been a real focus by Ministers on how funds are spent. In your performance report, there is additional request in terms of the commentary on the EU-exit and COVID-19, and that's something that we are really keen to show value for money and exactly how funds are being spent and the outcomes being achieved.

We also issued accounting guidance on EU-exits and COVID-19, which we may add to in the coming months as things develop. I will be leading on the sustainability reporting going forward and I will be keen to improve this area just in terms of the Government focus we've had from this point onwards. Obviously, this sets out a minimum reporting, so departments are encouraged to go beyond this where they possibly can do. I will now pass on to you Sally to take you through the next slide.

Sally King:

Hi everyone, good morning, I am Sally and I work alongside Max in the Government Financial Reporting team at the Treasury. So, to start with I'd like to talk a little bit about the admin deadline.

As most of you will probably be aware, for 2019-2020, we extended the admin deadline for laying your annual reports and accounts, and that was across the board extension from 30th June to 30th September. Max mentioned that we did a survey with some of our practitioner colleagues across Government. Some of the feedback we had about that extension from our survey respondents was mixed. Some people were pleased with the extra time to prepare, because this took account off the pressures that everyone was facing. As you can see in the pie chart on the right hand side in the dark red and the lighter red parts of the pie chart, more than half our respondents thought that they might need to take advantage of an admin deadline extension if made available for 2021. However, there were a number of respondents that also talked about the problems that pushing those accounts preparation a bit later had, including on staff well-being and the knock-on impact really toward the processes, which included 2020-2021 accounts prep.

For 2020-2021, subject to Parliament's approval, we've returned the deadline to the 30th June. However, what we've said is that any Government entity who does require an extension to the 30th September because of their individual circumstances can contact the Treasury via our resource accounts mailbox. Justified extensions which have had approval from the department’s Audit Committee, and from the NAO team will be granted at that point.

So, we've judged that this more tailored approach to deadlines, will be something that supports all the parties involved to be able to really lay out those timetables in advance, in an achievable way, and also encourages timeliness for the uses of accounts wherever it's possible. But, again as Max was saying, it does also offer a more flexible approach to best suit people's needs. So, we would encourage departments to be considering their timetables, and if you do consider that an extension will be needed to seek Audit Committee and auditor approval and contact our team in the Treasury as soon as you're able, just setting up those circumstances around, why an extension is required.

IFRS 16 implementation is a hot topic as I am sure everyone's aware. So, the forthcoming implementation of the new IFRS 16 Leasing Standard has been a significant issue for the Treasury to consider in the reporting landscape. So, it's something that's going to bring really significantly improved reporting to this area and there is a growing gap with Private Sector entities who have adopted that from 2019-20. However, that has needed to be seen in the context of the pressures of the pandemic on finance teams across Government, and also the mixed levels of readiness for adoption across departments at this point.

The independent FRAB board who advice Treasury considered this issue last November, and they are determined that the standard should be deferred for a further year until 2021-22. However, those departments who are ready and meet certain criteria can apply to their relevant authority to be able to early adopt from 2020-21.

So, entities who have chosen to early adopt will, I'm sure as we speak, be working on returns to demonstrate how their main estimate for 2021 will be adjusted for IFRS 16. As we've asked for returns to go back to spending teams by 25th January, so that in itself, the ability to do that what the timetable is one of the criteria for early adoption. The other criteria are being able to provide additional information for the whole of Government accounts process as needed, and also that the relevant authority gives the go ahead.

Treasury as the department do have guidance out there to help support early adopters for this year, including our application, our budgeting guidance and also previous training materials but we definitely welcome views on any additional materials that you would find most useful and for those departments, both who are early adopting and those who are looking ahead to the adoption process in the next period. So, I'll just hand over to Vikki at this point to take us through our final slide.

Vikki Lewis:

Thank you, Sally and Max. I am Vikki, I also work in the Government Financial Reporting team within Treasury. Sally and Max have kindly taken us through the support measures that we've put in place for prepares. We hope the flexibility offered will be valuable and provides scope to help ease the reporting burden on you, whilst your organisations are affected by the pandemic. It applies to all of the FReM compliant entities, so all within the group, so if you’re and arms-length body, and you perhaps weren’t aware before, this does apply to you as well, but I would say that you just speak to your sponsor department around that too. I’ve got the last session, so hopefully you will bear with me just for the last bit. I am going to cover a brief update on the changes to the Financial Reporting manual for the 2020-2021, and I look ahead to 2021-2022.

So, the reduced reporting flexibility has been based on revised financial reporting manual, and addendum has been published on gov.uk, which sets it out. But if you choose to go to beyond the minimum reporting, the FReM provides all the necessary guidance for full reporting and the disclosures necessary.

So, the 2021 manual itself may look and feel little bit different this year following the Zero-based review of the guidance in 2019. As a way of background, we published the 2021 FReM December last year and, as Phil was saying, we had this event in the beginning of this time last year and I covered a lot of the main changes at that workshop. But if you've not had a chance to look at it yet, or as a reminder, you'll see some structural changes to the manual along with more details to clarify the levels of mandatory reporting including the application of IFRS, references to managing public money, and so on.

It also introduces reporting on a complier explain basis for some areas of narrative, such as around the risk profile of the organisation and significantly how it has affected performance. Also, other things include staff turnover, trend data and unit costs. We've added a decision tree to guide you through if and how to include any additional content that you might want to think about including, specifically aimed at your users of your annual reports and accounts and these might go beyond the mandatory and compliance areas.

So, this workshop has really been showcasing loads of good practice reporting and how important it actually is to do that. We've also reflected in the FReM specific content about both best practice narrating reporting, as well as a new chapter which covers presentational best practice. So, for example, the design choices you make, the importance of balanced reporting, as well as the need to provide content and trends. Trends is a really good one, particularly the Parliament really like to see. It gives that context in a very accessible, easily understandable way. So, it's all with the intention to support improvements to the understandability and clarity for the user of Annual Reports and accounts, and really get to grips in a very accessible way around performance, and how that money has been spent.

There's another new chapter which covers the purposes and principles of financial reporting, saying about how you choose, what and how to publish it. We've added enhanced guidance on the performance and accountability report, including more emphasis on linking organisational performance to outcomes, objectives, and risk management. We've seen some good examples again this morning, around risk reporting, and it reflects really the importance of a holistic and open risk reporting, particularly during this period where entities have been really so affected by the pandemic on every level.

So, all the changes can be found on all the FReM pages of gov.uk and we published amendment records, which set them all out. Just within that, I wanted to stress that the format of annual reports and accounts though is unchanged, they're still the three sections.

So, that was hopefully very quick recap on what's changed, but this slide really I wanted to focus more on what we've done in terms of in-year update to the 2021 FReM, which were published just after Christmas, and you may not yet be cited on those, so these are summarised in this slide, and I just wanted to draw your attention to a couple of particular areas.

We’ve kept further changes to a minimum. Obviously, that set out our remit, we only really make changes as in-year updates if we find it's really necessary, but it does offer us the opportunity to do so. Particularly, we take feedback throughout the year from preparers and audit teams so if there are things that do come up that require further clarification, we've got an opportunity to do that by or in-year update.

So, for example, clarification has been added in respect to IFRS 9, which came in via a couple of queries from prepares and auditors on the application of expected credit losses within the group. So, we've confirmed that AIBs are not exempted and departments still need to do this exercise. Again, all the details are in the FReM.

We've added a clarification around the application of materiality, as we found this is a key area of judgment and that warranted additional guidance, plus we've added some references to the guidance published by the FRC, which is really helpful, if you've not seen that please do access that.

A new area also worth highlighting is the introduction of diversity and equality disclosures. It's recognised that many entities do this already, either within their Annual Reports and accounts or issue a separate diversity and inclusion report on an annual basis. If you do that already, you can cross reference to it that would be really great. This obviously is recognised as a really good best practice area, and the CNAG touched on it earlier in his video with his reflections. We've added it to the FReM to broaden the requirement and encourage all those FReM compliant entities to follow suit.

For now, it does remain non-mandatory, but we really do encourage you to apply these disclosures where possible. They are twofold, they look both externally to the organisation and internally to how that organisation treats its staff and so it covers how the entities work to promote equality of service delivery to different groups in society. For example, a department delivering a frontline service could provide data and information on the group's accessing service and identifying any lack of parity of access between those groups or maybe customer satisfaction scores broken down by the protected groups, and then importantly, including narrative around what action is being taken to address the inequalities and how successful they've been.

Then, secondly, how the entity itself seeks to improve the diversity and inclusiveness of its own workforce. So it covers disclosures around how the organisation treats its staff, such as whether it's identified any barriers to improving the diversity of its workforce, any barriers to career progression for different protected groups, what action has been taken to remove those barriers, and what progress is being made against them, and what the future commitments are.

So, there’s quite a bit there to cover, but I think it really helps give a really good understanding of the importance the entity places on inclusivity, both for the delivery of its service, but also how it operates itself and the culture of that organisation.

Now, we do recognise they’re existing statutory responsibilities to report, for example, under the Equality Act as well as requirements under the civil service, diversity and inclusion strategy, and the FReM best practice disclosures do not duplicate or contradict these. They are there to supplement gaps, and you can cross reference diversity and inclusion data that might be published elsewhere if that ease is there. But unsurprisingly, this is a key area that Parliament is interested in, as key user of the Annual Reports and accounts, but also more increasingly, the public. As I say, whilst not mandatory, we do really encourage you to do this if you can and start to think about how you're going to do that over time.

Now, Max touched on this earlier, similarly unsurprisingly Parliament will be looking at how the pandemic and EU-exit has impacted on your organisation. And as Max says, we've published additional guidance as a PES paper, which incorporates these areas and also gives you some more general guidance, and it's up on one finance.

I just wanted to touch on a reiteration that although the PES is predominantly aimed at departments, we strongly encourage it to be shared with ALBs and ALBs directly can access it on one finance and also show that there might be some organisations online now that are compliant entities. But if you can have access to one finance it doesn't incorporate some helpful guidance around some of the things that you should be thinking around particularly at the year end because of EU-exit and COVID, and highlight some of the other really helpful guidance that's out there by the firms and the FRC and so on.

So, just one minute, if I may, just to finish by looking ahead to 2021-2022, that was also published just after Christmas and Sally touched on the option to implement IFRS 16 from April 2021 with approval from your organisation's respective relevant authority to the FReM incorporates the guidance there. There's been a change to improve the fair pay disclosures in, I can never say the Rem report, but that just aims to bring into line with what's been happening under the Companies Act. Public Sector entities really should mirror the Companies Act where it is applicable, so we've done that, but they just sent through on broadening the comparison of percentage change and ratios of pay against the highest paid director and the rest of the workforce.

So, that was it really. So, just on the FReM changes, we've deliberately tried not to make any further substantive changes for the 2021-2022. Similarly, in December, later on this year when we do any in-year updates we’ll aim to keep these to a minimum. This is an open invitation, if you do pick up issues that you suggest could do with some clarification or just a bit more explanation, or you think are not quite right please do let us know, we are very open to taking the feedback on the FReM throughout the year so I would suggest you do that.

So, finally I just wanted to highlight that we are building on the bank of best practice examples. We published a report on the 2018-19 that’s complimentary to all this brilliant work that PwC and NAO are doing. We are currently pulling together examples from the 2019-20 accounts, and we’re aiming to cover the COVID and EU-exit examples and we liaise with the parliamentary scrutiny unit to get their feedback. We also liaise with, there's a separate group the User Preparer Advisory Group, independent members, as well as some prepares from Government, are all examples.

Another invitation to you, whether you are Central Government or any other organisation that might be on the call today, if you think that you would like to nominate either your own organisation or any others that you're aware of that really show examples of good practice, please do so. We're very interested to see them and so all you need to do is just drop us a line to resource.accounts@hmtreasury.gov.uk, and we'd be very happy to think about it and we will try and include those in the bank of good practice examples that we publish on gov.uk, which will be in the next couple of months.

Now to finish off, so that's a little bit of a canter through, again happy to take questions at the end. But we've got the final Slido question, which we would be very grateful for your thoughts on and your feedback. This time it's a poll rather than open ended word cloud: “How confident do you feel about your 2021 reporting?”

So, please do just put your thoughts and vote on the Slido. So, it's how confident do you feel. So, do you feel on top of it? Do you feel more confident than last time? Do you feel you’ve got concerns about timescales, about quality or is your head firmly in the sand?

So far, you are feeling more confident, that is really, really good news. Appreciate, not everyone is really more confident, but around about a third is. But yes, recognising that timescales, which we do fully appreciate it. It is going to be tough, and hopefully some of the measures we've put on around extending your timetable will help in that.

What else? Those concerned about quality, that's interesting. Well hopefully some of the feedback today can help you with that and give you some good pointers. I think that's about final numbers now.

So, thank you. I think that's really helpful feedback from all of us on the call and I’ll hand back to Deanna or Phil.

Phil:

Yeah, I'll pick up. Thank you very much, Max, Sally, Vikki, really good pointers going forward. And I hope what the participants today have taken away is that, there is a bank of best practice, the NAO will be issuing best practice bank shortly. The Treasury has a wealth of information in the FReM. Our own slides will be circulated to everybody, who has attended today, as well highlights from the video recording of this. Just thinking ahead, we will be running the awards process again this coming October, so there will be judging across the Summer and the early Autumn. Who knows whether that will be back as an award to bench, or whether it will simply be awards, but our intention is to reconstitute the Building Public Trust Awards for this year. This will be the 19th year that we have given out awards for best practice, it’s something we are passionate about pushing a narrative disclosures, diagrams, and the way that organisations convey their messages to stakeholders, we think is a really important part.

I can see in the chat function when people are talking about this current reporting cycle. Adam, in particular wanted the option that he was confident about his own organisation but was worried about the timetable for the auditors. Don't worry, as an auditor, I am also concerned about the timetable and our ability to imbed quality, we need to get this right this year and we will continue to push forward on those aspects.

That was all I wanted to say Steve, I am not sure whether you wanted any closing from the NAO’s perspective, but from my perspective, thank you everyone for your attendance and your interaction. The chat function has been particularly active, and I am delighted that we are all answering each other's questions in there which made it much easier. Over to you Steve.

Steven:

Thanks Phil. Yes indeed, it's interesting to see how the points develop in the chat function.

For me, today we've seen that first for continued innovation on annual reporting is still there, despite all the other pressures that's going on within all our organisations for the obvious reasons, and I'm really struck by people's commitment to keep on innovating and keep on developing on that challenge as well.

Yeah, I saw some of the chat about some of the audit timetables and like Phil, yeah, it’s an ongoing debate for us at the National Audit Office. Probably one of the key learnings for us is how we can work with you remotely to gain that evidence as we ebb and flow, working from home. Phil didn’t say it, but I will say, the regulators and their exacting standards are very much uppermost in our minds as well in terms of actually that sufficiency of evidence and I know, I won't start that debate now, but that does have an issue for us in terms of gaining sufficient evidence to support your assertions in your financial statements, not so much in your Annual Report. But you know our teams will continue to work with you to plan this year’s, the 2020-2021 timescales, and find ways around that as best as we all can and continue to work with you to achieve those ambitions that you've talked about.

Phil just mentioned about just follow the plug as well we are hoping to publish our own best practice guide. We do that annually and we continue to do that this year towards the end of the month or the beginning of next month as well, that'll build on that bank of good practice that Vikki and Phil and PwC generally have talked about as well. Just to put a plug there and of course, very happy to take any further representations in that as well. I hope you'll be able to use that and get some, dare I say, inspiration as you face the next few months in terms of your Annual Report.

But look, thank you it's been really good to see that ongoing commitment, and indeed the comments as well. And of course, we're very happy to take any feedback from this session but also to the NAO separately as well but thank you all very much indeed.

 

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