The 2019 version of the Academies Financial Handbook
was released by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) on 27 June 2019. In the updated guidance, ESFA has sought to strengthen the importance of academies having sound financial checks and balances in their use of public money.
ASCL Business Leadership Specialist Hayley Dunn
advises that there are significant changes to the handbook, with a clear focus on internal scrutiny. With a new requirement that academy trusts must show how they have checked that their internal systems are effective and compliant through an independently prepared annual summary scrutiny report. This report needs to include areas reviewed, key findings, recommendations and conclusions; subsequently presented to the audit committee and submitted to the ESFA by 31 December.
There are also requirements to maintain a risk register; an emphasis on the importance of robust governance; the role governing bodies should play to make sure the pay and other benefits of senior staff are reasonable and reflect their responsibilities; and the importance of having an agreed whistleblowing procedure and a structure.