Venue: Room 9 - Civic Office. View directions
Declarations of Interest, if any
There were no declarations of interest made at the meeting.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the Audit Committee Meeting held on 31st January, 2019, be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
The Committee considered the Audit Committee Actions Log, which updated Members on actions agreed during the Audit Committee meetings, allowing Members to monitor progress against actions, ensuring that satisfactory progress was being made.
Members were informed that all actions were progressing well. Of the 7 actions requested in October 2018 and January 2019, 3 had been completed and were to be removed from the next action log and the 4 remaining actions were progressing and would be cleared in the course of future meetings; none of these represented longer running issues.
The Head of Internal Audit provided an update on progress in managing the stock position in relation to the Smart Lights Project. It was reported that a cost benefit exercise had been carried out and the full purchase price would be paid for the items rather than a reduced rate offered in lieu of warranties. In response to a question from the Vice-Chair Councillor Richard A Jones seeking clarity regarding retention of the 15 year warranty, the Head of Internal Audit advised that the warranty would commence from the date of purchase.
RESOLVED that the progress being made against the actions agreed at the previous Committee meetings, be noted.
The Committee considered a report presented by the Head of Internal Audit, which represented the results of an audit follow up review of the Direct Payments audit undertaken in 2017/18 and a further follow up in 2018/19. The initial report presented to the Committee had given a limited assurance opinion and a follow up review was agreed with Adult Social Care and Support and the Committee had requested a further update in this area following progress being reported to the Committee in October 2018. The report also provided a progress update on the recovery of overpayments identified as a problem area from a further audit report from 2015/16.
Patrick Birch, Strategic Lead for Adults Transformation, Anthony Patterson and Joanne Hayes, Professional Business Support were in attendance at the meeting and responded to questions from Members.
The Head of Internal Audit provided an overview of key actions completed prior to October 2018, the key actions completed between October 2018 and March 2019 and the outstanding actions that were being progressed.
The Chair, in referring to Appendix A to the report, sought confirmation as to whether the dates of the outstanding actions were on track for completion. The Head of Internal Audit reported that there was a continuation of Direct Payments being taken up which was positive. He explained that this was in line with the Social Care Strategy on a national basis. There was a better grip on costs, which was as a consequence of all new Direct Payments now going through a Risk Assessment Panel.
A member of the public was in attendance at the meeting and wished to ask a question. As there was no provision on the agendas for members of the public to ask questions, the Chair Councillor Austen White, used his discretion to allow Mr Ferguson the opportunity to speak. Mr Ferguson was of the opinion that the reports presented to the Audit Committee in general and the minutes of meetings, did not clearly spell out the actions being taken by the Council to improve areas requiring improvement and the community benefits arising from such improvements. He felt that the focus appeared to be on how improvements would strengthen the Councils position only. Mr Ferguson also held the view that there was insufficient challenge by the Committee in respect of reports presented to the Committee. The Chair assured Mr Ferguson that the role of the Committee was to challenge Officers on all aspects of audit work. Following further questions from Mr Ferguson, the Chair and Vice-Chair offered to meet with Mr Ferguson outside of the meeting to discuss the issues he raised.
In response to a question from the Vice-Chair, Councillor Richard A Jones about whether any additional significant issues being identified during the follow-up review, the Head of Audit commented that in the evolving environment the Council operates in; the Internal Audit Team was focussing its work on areas of significant risk and this area was not considered to be as high a risk area ... view the full minutes text for item 44.
The Committee considered a report presented by Steve Mawson, Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Director Finance, which provided details of all the waivers and breaches to the Financial Procedure Rules and the Contract Procedure Rules for the period 1st September, 2018 to 28th February, 2019. The report provided a summary of the number of new waivers and breaches recorded for each Directorate since the last audit report in October 2018. Details of waivers and breaches, were summarised in Appendix 1 to the report.
It was reported that revisions had been proposed to the Council’s Financial and Contract Procedure Rules, which were to be considered by the Elections and Democratic Structures Committee on 1st May and if supported, would be presented to full Council for approval on 17th May, 2019.
Holly Wilson, Head of Strategic Performance was also in attendance at the meeting and responded to questions from Members.
Members raised queries and some concern in relation to the new breaches to Council Procedure Rules as identified in the report, which had indicated that there was a lack of knowledge and understanding by some Officers in relation to contract and procurement arrangements resulting in breaches taking place. It was reported that a new training programme was to be implemented which would assist new managers coming in to the authority to understand the procedures. The Head of Strategic Performance had consulted on the revised Contract Procedure Rules, in order to make procedure rules clearer in terms of the tendering process. The Chair requested that the Committee be provided with further information regarding the arrangements being put in place to address this issue. It was agreed that progress would be reported to the Committee meeting in October, which would allow sufficient time for Officer training to be undertaken and its outcomes to be assessed. It was further agreed that a table be included in the report for comparative purposes, showing the prior number of breaches and waivers, in order for Members to see what progress was being made.
Further to a request from Members, the Head of Strategic Performance and the Strategic Lead Adults Transformation provided an update on the current status of the unresolved breaches, as set out in Appendix 1 of the report. It was subsequently agreed that an update on the Solar Centre, be provided to the Committee at its next meeting in June.
During further discussion, the Chair asked what outcomes had been achieved and what benefits had been identified as a result of changes to the structure of the Strategic Procurement Team. It was reported that the new structure had only recently been populated, therefore it was too early to provide an indication of the benefits. However, it was reported that internal Performance Indicators had been introduced to track progress within the Team and Directorates had indicated that they were satisfied with the level of service provided by the Team. Additional staffing had been put into the Regeneration and Environment Directorate, which had helped contracts being turned around ... view the full minutes text for item 45.
The Committee considered a report, which provided information on the work of Internal Audit during 2018/19 and the Head of Internal Audit’s opinion on the Council’s governance, risk management and internal control arrangements, which had been deemed as adequate and had operated satisfactorily during the year. The report was also used to inform the Council’s Annual Governance Statement. The key headlines from the Head of Internal Audit’s Annual Report, were outlined in paragraphs 1.1 to 1.7 and Appendix 1 of the report.
The Head of Audit provided a detailed summary of the salient points in the report. He advised that the report reflected a positive opinion and he was satisfied with the work of the Internal Audit Team during the Year.
The Committee sought clarity on various aspects of the report, during which the Head of Internal Audit, Chief Financial Officer and Director of Corporate Resources responded to Members questions and where appropriate, provided assurances that actions were being taken to address their queries and concerns raised, in particular relating to the following issues:-
· What further measures were being put in place to manage the small increase in the low level recommendations as at 19 March 2019 – no further measures were required
· Use of Internal Audit Resources - Details of the external organisation were support had been provided by audit services -this was to an internal Drainage Board
· What Internal Audit services were provided to schools – these are now minimal due to the relative low risk and there being no statutory audit to audit them as there had been historically
· Internal Audit services provided to St. Leger Homes of Doncaster – these have been provided for many years on a service level agreement basis
· When would the Committee receive a further report on progress on the outstanding recommendations – a progress report to be presented to the Committee at its meeting in July
· How many community schools in the Borough were under the Local Authority control in comparison to those schools that had moved to Academy status and what services did Internal Audit provide to schools – Internal Audit do not provide any services to academies in the Borough
· Feedback regarding the level of satisfaction and moral within the Internal Audit team – the team were looking forward to appointing an extra member to the team to help support their work
· Identified areas of Weakness – the Chair asked whether further reports would be submitted to the Committee in future for the areas identified at paragraphs 5.7 to 5.14. The Head of Audit responded that Stores was an ongoing audit and would be reported to committee at a future meeting. All actions for Occupational Therapy were fully complete. Actions from bereavement service would be reported within the future progress reports and there was no further need to report on Deprivation of Liberties as discussed earlier.
Members acknowledged that it had been a very challenging year for the Internal Audit Team as a consequence of the unprecedented work ... view the full minutes text for item 46.
Debbie Hogg, Director of Corporate Resources presented the draft Annual Governance Statement (AGS) for 2018/19, which outlined the statutory requirements upon the Council to prepare, approve and publish an Annual Governance Statement. The report set out the process for the preparation of the Statement, which the Committee was asked to review and to endorse the initial outline draft Statement, prior to publication and consultation of the Accounts in July 2019.
Members’ attention was drawn to the diagram as set out in paragraph 11, where it was noted that this year, the Council had taken a top down and bottom up approach in the formulation of the AGS, in order to provide Members with a more comprehensive position regarding key governance issues. Items on the AGS would be reviewed as part of the quarterly resource performance management cycle, which would also identify emerging issues that were of concern for elevation to the Governance Group. This allowed the Council to react to emerging issues, and where possible, prevent entry onto future ’AGS's. The timing of the production of the AGS had been aligned with the production of the Annual Report of the Head of Internal Audit, to allow both reports to be considered at the same meeting.
10 key areas for improvement had been effectively managed to the extent that they were no longer significant and were considered complete in the context of the AGS. 7 new significant issues had been identified. An update on the 3 key areas identified during previous years that remained an issue in 2018-19, was also provided. The key actions to mitigate the issues identified for 2018/19 would be reviewed before the production of the final Annual Governance Statement in June 2019, so it would reflect the up to date position. It was highlighted that several of the issues for mitigation represented risks, whereas several of the items from prior years were actual governance failures.
Whilst recognising that some items had now been removed from the AGS which was welcomed, the Chair sought an update on progress of those items identified in the report that remained an issue, in particular in relation to ‘Data Quality’. It was reported that additional resources had been established to provide support in this area and was being aligned with the implementation of the Doncaster Integrated Peoples System (DIPS), Care Management system for Children’s Adults and Education Services. However, it was highlighted that this would take some time to implement and after that maintaining data quality would be an ongoing task.
Kathryn Smart referred to the current 10 key areas of risk identified on the AGS and asked whether the services had the capacity and capability to deliver and make significant progress on the issues, in view of some of the issues previously on the AGS continued to be recurring in nature. It was acknowledged that some issues would be enduring in nature and would require time and capacity to implement.
A question was asked in relation to how Doncaster compared to ... view the full minutes text for item 47.
The Head of Internal Audit presented the Internal Audit Annual Plan for 2019/20, which had been presented in line with the requirements of the UK Public Services Internal Audit Standards, which required Internal Audit’s plans to be risk based and informed by the organisation’s risk management, performance management, and other assurance processes. The Plan had been created following a comprehensive review of all Council risks and activities. The report provided a summary of last year’s Plan and the proposed Plan for next year, including a breakdown of the Audit Plan by type of work.
The Head of Internal Audit provided an overview of the items that were currently on the Plan, as set out at Appendix A of the report and those lower risk items that were not able to be reviewed with existing resources at Appendix B. The key changes made in compiling the Internal Audit Plan, were set out at Paragraph 6 of the report. There were broad similarities in some areas to that of previous years but in Adults, Health and Wellbeing, there was planned to be more assurance based work rather than the comprehensive service support that had been needed in previous years.
Following the presentation of the report, Members were invited to comment on the report. It was noted by the Chair that Philip Holmes, the newly appointed Director of Adults, Health and Wellbeing would take up his post on 1st July, 2019 and would oversee the delivery of improvements previously managed by Damian Allen, Director of People. The Chair on behalf of the Committee thanked Damian Allen and those Officers in Adults, Health and Wellbeing for their contribution in driving forward improvements in this area over the past two years highlighted by the work of Internal Audit.
During discussion, Kathryn Smart sought clarity in relation to the Risk Management Policy, which was not explicit in the report and asked whether this was part of a wider piece of work. The Head of Internal Audit advised that following a review of the risk management arrangements last year, there would be no specific review taking place this year.
In response to a further question from Kathryn Smart to as to whether the Bank mandate fraud, which she felt was a substantial issue, would be incorporated in to one of the financial reviews, the Head of Internal Audit confirmed that this was to be included in the scope of one of the data matching initiatives.
During further questions in relation to ‘Responsive Work’, the Head of Internal Audit confirmed that those audits that were most likely to be removed from the Plan, based on their risk rating, were marked with an asterisk. These items would provide additional capacity to work on areas with a higher risk rating if required.
Following further questions from the Committee, the Head of Audit outlined the rationale for Data Quality Arrangements being included in the Annual Governance Statement and remaining a priority in the future, which would help to ensure that good ... view the full minutes text for item 48.
The Committee considered a report, which set out the key aspects of the work undertaken by the Committee during 2018/19. The Annual Report demonstrated that the Committee had fulfilled its Terms of Reference, made an effective contribution to the governance of the Council and showed its achievements with the whole Council. Examples of contributions made included:-
· Helping to maintain and improve the Council’s system of internal control by reviewing internal and external audit work carried out during the year.
· Supporting improvement in the Council’s control arrangements by ensuring appropriate action is taken to implement audit recommendations and calling officers to account where explanations over any lack of progress are required. This has been particularly important in monitoring the very high number of actions within the Adult, Health and Wellbeing Directorate and has eventually brought about a notable reduction in the number and significance of outstanding recommendations.
· Reviewing and ensuring appropriate action is taken in response to significant weaknesses found in the management of the Safeguarding Adults Personal Assets Team (SAPAT), Deprivation of Liberty Safeguard (DOLS) Assessments, Direct Payments, Business Waste and Recycling and the Smart Light Project.
· Critically assessing the Council’s governance arrangements and supporting the production of an accurate Annual Governance Statement.
· Strengthening the Council’s risk management policy by critically appraising the former policy and subsequently approving the revised policy.
· Supporting the maintenance of the good standards achieved in producing the Council’s Statement of Accounts, while meeting shorter timescales now required.
· Supporting the Council’s antifraud and corruption arrangements and noting progress in this area as set out in the annual fraud report.
· Supporting the development of the Council’s Money Laundering Arrangements.
· Ensuring the Council’s surveillance policies are kept up to date and reviewing surveillance carried out by the Council.
The Chair took the opportunity to highlight the improvements in risks, governance and control in particular in the Adults, Health and Wellbeing directorate, which had been reflected both in the Annual Governance Statement and the Annual report of the Head of Internal Audit, to which the Committee had also contributed to. The Committee welcomed the report, focussing on the positive aspects achieved.
The Vice-Chair, Councillor Richard A Jones, asked Mr. Sethi, Grant Thornton who was in attendance at the meeting if he could provide Members with an external audit opinion on the work carried out by the Audit Committee to date. Mr Sethi advised that he would not want to make a judgement at such an early stage of their appointment as external auditors, however, he indicated that from observation the Committee was asking pertinent questions. He added that presently, there wasn’t anything specific that he could think of for the Committee to particularly focus on.
RESOLVED that the Audit Committee Annual Report 2018/19 be approved and be presented to a future meeting of full Council.
Perminder Sethi, Grant Thornton presented the report of the External Auditor, providing an overview on progress on delivering its responsibilities as the Council’s External Auditor. The report also provided a summary of emerging national issues and developments relevant to the local government sector and specific issues for Doncaster as part of its Audit work.
Following the presentation of the report, the Chair invited questions from Members. Kathryn Smart asked whether it was anticipated that there would be any issues with Beever and Struthers, St. Leger Homes’ external auditor and whether there were protocols in place and would these be shared with the Council.
Mr. Sethi advised that no issues had been identified and confirmed that there were protocols in place for the accounts and auditors to work together. Furthermore, Grant Thornton had written to Beever and Struthers and they had since responded to confirm that they would provide information to support the audit. Work was currently being undertaken on what work they would be required to do.
Kathryn Smart highlighted that there had been some issues in last year’s ISA 260 report and asked the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Director of Finance if the Council was prepared for this year’s accounts preparation. In response, the Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Director of Finance confirmed that arrangements were in hand. There had been concerns in relation to the potential risk regarding valuations, due to Brexit not taking place on 29th March. Officers are working with the Councils Assets Team and a lot of work had been carried out. However, it was advised that there had been no significant changes in year, therefore didn’t foresee any problems at present.
During further discussion, the Vice-Chair, Councillor Richard A Jones made reference to the Sector Update report and stated that he had read the report relating to ‘Care Homes for the Elderly – Where are we now’, which he found of interest, however he observed that the report had been incorrectly referenced. Mr Sethi undertook to report back to his team in relation to this issue.
To conclude, the Chair on behalf of the Committee thanked Mr. Sethi for his presentation of the report and thanked all those present for attending the meeting.
RESOLVED that the External Auditor’s progress report and sector update, be noted.