History of Auditing - Auditing in Early Cities

History of Accounting > History of Auditing > Auditors in Early Cities

To the Lords Auditors in Scotland, in addition to the auditing of the accounts of the various officials who collected and disbursed the Crown revenue, was confided the duty of auditing the accounts of the intromissions of the magistrates with the common good of the burghs. An Act of James V. of 1535 (Parliament 4, cap. 26) ordains the provost, bailies, and aldermen to account yearly in the Exchequer for their administration of the common good. The provost, bailies, and aldermen had to give public notice fifteen days before the audit that their accounts were to be examined, in order that any one who cared to do so might inspect the accounts and take exception to them. An earlier Act, of the year 1491, had provided for a yearly “inquisition” into the expenditure of the common good. In addition to this central audit of the accounts of the common good, the burgesses themselves in many of the burghs audited the accounts of the burgh treasurer.

In Peebles the audit was held before the provost, council, and inhabitants of the burgh after warning by ” proclamatioun to cum and heir thair thesaurare to mak his compt as vse is.” The records refer to the ” awdytouris ” under date 17th November 1457, when the “cont” of the burgh of Pebillis was made. Again, in 1458, the names of the auditors (eight in number ” with other mony”) are given, and we are told that ” all thingis contyt that suld be contyt and alowit that suld be lowyt”—a comprehensive, but rather vague certificate.

In Lanark, also, the rentmaster, or treasurer, apparently read his account to the auditors, but here the auditors wrote out a certificate in which they detailed every item of expenditure which they passed as correct. Thus in 1488 the certificate states: ” The cownt of William Foster, rentmaister, herd of twa termys in the yer bigane, that ar to say Martynmes and Witsonday in the tym of his yer, the xij day of the moneth of Junij, the yer of Gode a thousande four hundreth Ixxxviij yeris, be thir auditouris thairto sworn, that ar to say, Thomas Weir, John Mowat, Thomas Lokart, Andro Williamsoun, and John Smyth. The quhilkis auditouris fyndis the rentell in the said yer with the fut of the rest of the last cownt xxxiij li. xiij s.

“The auditouris allowys thir sommys underwrittin.” (Here follow the items in detail).

The following docquet is appended to a fragment of the account of George Aczinson, rentmaster, of the year 1490:—

The auditouris fyndis that George Aczinson sail stand under the cownt of the breid irnis,1 and se at thai be done sufficiantly, as he that has gevin it in cownt and nocht done, and allowit till him be the said auditouris, the quhilk som is xxvj s. iij d.; item, xs. gevin be the said George to John Symson for the fluring of the tulbuth and nocht done ; and the werk done be Fasternevin, or ellis lay in the som to the rent maister.

The said auditouris fyndis of the rest of ix lib. x s. iij d., the quhilk remanyt in Thorn Weiris handis; in his yer of rent maisterschip, allowyt till him, gewin to Stene Lokart at the command of the town, iiij lib.; and sa restis the said Thomas awand to the town, v lib. x s. iij d.

The said auditouris fyndis in George Merser hand of the tolbuth silver, xij d., the day of his cownt.

In Stirling the audit was originally carried out by the provost, bailies, and council. In 1528-1529 it is recorded that: ” Duncan Patonsoun offerit the compt of wmquhill David Crag, thesawrar to this gud toune, and the buk tharof, to Johen Ackyne and Allexander Watsoun to be in thar keipin on to the tyme that the saidis coumptis war futtit befoir the saidis provest, baillies and counsall, of the said burgh.” Later, the council appointed auditors from among the burgesses. Thus, in 1554, ” the said William (the treasurer) comptis being maid and hard be certane auditouris, comburgessis of the said burgh, chosin and admittit tharto, he restis awing apone the fute of his saidis comptis to the community foirsaid the sowme of thre hundreth lix li. xix s. x d. . . .”; and in 1562 ” The counsall has namit Johne Lecheman (and six others) to be auditouris of the townis comptis for this instant yen*.”

1 Bread irons, i.e. stamps for bread.

The accounts of the city of Edinburgh were regularly audited and docqueted. The present degenerate race of auditors will learn with some astonishment that their predecessors ” hard ” the accounts on one occasion at ” vj houris in the morning.” The audit appears to have been carried out in a careful and thorough manner. Under date 28 May 1535 it is recorded: ” The quhilk day, it is diuisit and ordanit that thir auditouris of compts abouewrittin begynand resaif the compts of this towne, in the first Robert Henrysouns compt and fute the samyn, and thairafter William Adamesouns compt, and syne the compt of the calsay and taxt, and swa furth ay and quhill the compts of the towne be compleitly endit.” In 1576 some of the auditors refused to sign the accounts on the ground that they contained ” certane soumes debursit at the conventioun of burrois to quhilk they wer nocht privye.” The auditors were chosen by the provost, bailies, and council—after 1583 equally from the merchants and craftsmen. The following is a copy of the docquet appended to the earliest existing account of the Treasurer, for the year 1552-1553:—

Apud Edinburgh, Secundo Martij, Anno Jm ve quinquagesimo tertio. [At Edinburgh, the second of March, in the year 1563.]

The quhilk day, the auditors of comptis underwrittin hes deligentlie vesyit the compt foirsaid and fund, the charge and discharge being seine, hard and understand, that the compter restis awing to the towne the sowme of twa hundreth lxxu v8 ijd de claro of his haill comptis; and als ordains in the nixt yeir Robert Grahanie, new thesaurer, be chargit herewith; and als with the silver of the tymmer extending to xliiju xvj” quhilk he bocht to the towne in the moneth of July the yeir of God JTM vc Ij yers to the bulwerk, and thairefter allowit and dischargit to him in his comptis the samyn yere, he beand thesaurer, and intromettit with be the said Robert and sauld be him to his awin utilite agane.

Maister Johne Pkestoun, baillie. William Hammyltoun, provest.

William Lawson, baize. Wilzem Craik.

William Muirheid, baillie. Mr James Lindesay.

Duncane Levingstoun, baillie. Johne Sym, with my hand.

Item, I fynd in Robert Grahame’s compt, nixt thesaurer, that he charges him with the sowme of twa hundreth thre score ten11 v8 ijd resavit be him fra the said Alexander Park, and siclik charges him with the xliiju xvs [xvj8] for the tymmer above writtin in the samyn compt; and sua hes Alexander Park payit this rest.


Guthee. J

The records of Lanark of 1552-1553 contain the following report of the audit:—

Compotum Pattryk Makmoran, Robart Young, James Hetoun, and Watte Wikkitschaw:—The count of Patryk Makmoran, hard apon the xxix day of Janauar in the yer of God ane thousand fyf hundreth and lij yens, hard be thir audyturis underwrytten, that is to say, David Walkar, David Brentoun, James Hetoun, Allexander Hammyltoun, James Grub, George Forrest, Robert Yowng, Watte Wikkitschaw, Wylyem Fokkart, and Wylyem Allexander, sworn and admitit tharto be the toun to alow that suld be allouit, defas that suld be defassit, fand that the rentell in the said Patrykis yeir of rentmastyrchip extendit to xx li. vj s. viij d. and the soum of his defasans extendit to xxj li. viij s. iiij d., sa restit the toun awand to the said Patryk Makmoran xxij s. iiij d., and vj s. viij d. that the audyturis dranc; and sa the said Patryk syk eque wyth the toun in his yeir of rentmasterchip.

Memorandum, apone the said day abone wryttin, the audyturis hard the fut of Robart Youngis count, James Hetoun count, and Watte Wikkitschawis count, and fand the saidis personis syk eque wyth the toun in

1 Alexander Guthrie was the Town Clerk.

thair yeris of rentmasterschip, sa that James Hetoun had payit to the lard of Blakwod viij pundis quhylk the toun was awand to hym and allouyt in the said James count be the said audyturis, he getant the toun ane dyscharge at the lard of Blakwod of the said soum, and sa syk eque.

It is satisfactory to find that the creature comforts of the auditors were not overlooked. It will be noticed in the above quoted report that the auditors ” dranc ” 6s. 8d., and the “compt of the land malleis” of 1568-1569 contains the entry: ” Item, xs. gevin to the audetouris in drink.”

The auditors were not to be trifled with, as the following resolution, of date 1683, shows :—

Baillie Inglis being wairnit and callit for this day to give in his accounts and not compearing, orders that betwixt and Fryday he compeire before his former auditors and count; and alse Thomas Stodhart upon oath produce his registres and haill papers that he hes quhich appertenis to the brugh; otherwayes both of them are ordered to be taken to prissone.

The auditors of the Guildry of the City of Aberdeen report in their docquet appended to the accounts of 1586-1587 : ” Futit, calculat and endit by the Auditors ;” and another docquet bears: ” Heard, seen, considerit, calculat and allowit by the Auditors.” The auditors appear to have received even better treatment than their Lanark brethren, as an entry records a payment for ” Wine and Spicerie given to the Auditors.” As further proof of the good cheer enjoyed by auditors in past times, reference may be made to ” audit ale ” still brewed at certain colleges of the English universities, which was originally for use at the feast held on the day when the college accounts were audited.

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