Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Office, Waterdale, Doncaster DN1 3BU. View directions

No. Item


Declarations of Interest, if any


No declarations of interest was made.


Minutes of the meeting held on 26th January 2023. pdf icon PDF 85 KB


RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on 26th January 2023 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.


Audit Committee Action Log. pdf icon PDF 129 KB


The Committee considered the Audit Committee’s Actions Log that updated Members on the actions agreed at previous Audit Committee meetings, allowing Members to monitor progress against the actions, ensuring that satisfactory progress was being made.


It was noted that two actions from the Committee’s meeting on 27th October had been completed.


RESOLVED that the progress being made against the actions agreed at the previous Audit Committee meetings, be noted.



Breaches and Waivers to the Council's Contract Procedure Rules. pdf icon PDF 568 KB


Consideration was given to a report, presented by Holly Wilson, Head of Procurement, which detailed all breaches and waivers to the Council’s Procedure Rules (CPRs) for the period 1st September 2022 to 28th February 2023.  The report provided a summary of the number of new waivers and breaches recorded for each Directorate since the last audit reports presented to the Committee in October 2022 and April 2022 and a summary of the progress made in addressing breaches to Contract Procedure Rules.


The Head of Procurement provided an overview of the breaches and waivers. Sixteen waivers had been granted for the period, which was a slight decrease to the seventeen waivers reported during 2021/22.  Five breaches have been resolved and the breach in relation to the Meat products contract were expected to be resolved very soon. There were four new breaches in the Economy, Environment directorate, two of which related to aggregated spend, and two related to the expiry of contracts. In relation to new breaches, one relating to the contract for ventilation supplies was due to be awarded and resolved in April 2023. Further to a request by the Committee at its last meeting, Members’ attention were drawn to Appendix 3 of the report, which set out details of the percentage of waivers granted against the total value of contracts.  Paragraphs 21 to 27 of the report provided an update on the actions emanated from a previous meeting relating to reviewing the Procurement teams arrangements in terms of projects and enhancements, in particular, with regard to improvements compliance and contract mapping which have all been actioned.


In responding to questions regarding the resolved breaches, which related to the expiry of contracts, the Head of Procurement explained the reasons why they had occurred and provided assurances to the Committee that steps that had been taken by the Procurement team to ensure that administrative oversight did not occur in the future.


With regard to clarity being sought in respect of the two new breaches relating to aggregated spend, as detailed at sections 2.1 and 2.3 of Appendix 1 of the report, the Head of Procurement explained the process used to aggregate and to monitor the total amount spent in respect of contracts. It was noted that the minimum requirement for contracts to be procured was 3 to 6 months and that contracts exceeding the £25,000 direct award threshold would be a breach of CPRs. Any contracts reaching the threshold would be flagged up to the relevant Heads of Service and the Assistant Director as part of the quarterly monitoring process. It was further reported that the Council in recent years have spent less on supplies and that the Procurement team review historical data, which was used by Officers to dictate what CPRs Officers were to follow in terms of whether or not to tender for contracts. Whilst the Council endeavoured to get best value for money, more money has been expended on these contracts due to the cost of supplies, which was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 84.


Annual Report of the Monitoring Officer 2022/23. pdf icon PDF 167 KB

Additional documents:


Scott Fawcus, Monitoring Officer presented his annual report on matters relating to ethical governance, including details of complaint handling activity in relation to allegations of Member misconduct, details of disclosures made under the Council’s Whistleblowing Policy during the last 12 months, and any reports made under the Money Laundering Policy.


It was reported that the number of complaints relating to both Borough Councillors and Town and Parish Councillors remained proportionately low which evidenced that were very good standards of behaviour. No reports have been made to the Money Laundering Officer in relation to Anti-Money Laundering returns for 2022/23. During the last year, only two whistleblowing returns have been reported.


The Chair in welcoming the reduction in the number of complaints asked how Doncaster compared to that of other neighbouring authorities and whether there were national statistics available regarding Member complaints. The Monitoring Officer advised that Doncaster compared favourably to that of other authorities and complaints against Members and the number of breaches remained low which demonstrated good standards of behaviour for both Borough Councillors and Town and Parish Councillors. Complaints nationally generally related to when there were changes to the political make up of an authority. Complaints received by the Monitoring Officer in Doncaster mainly related to systemic complaints about changes in Council policy, or Members who had a difference of opinion in the actions of other Councillors, or were unhappy with how a Councillor was dealing with an issue in their ward. The complaints had not given rise to breaches of the Members’ Code of Conduct.


In response to a question from the Chair regarding the detection of potential money laundering activities of the Council, Members were informed that as the world was operating in a less cashless society, money laundering was much easier to detect. The Committee was reassured that the Council have robust arrangements in place to prevent money laundering which complied with legislative requirements. Council staff received training in relation to the detection of money laundering. The Council’s Financial Procedure Rules set out the Council’s internal framework for the financial administration of the Council’s financial affairs, including the handling of cash and that the Council will not accept cash income for the purchase of goods with a value greater than approx. £11,000.  It was reported that the Council was to limit the use of cash across the Council and where possible, the method of cash paid for Council services going forward were to be paid electronically. However, the Council would retain the facility for customers to be given the option to pay in cash.  It was recognised that there were some areas in the Council that payment could not be made digitally in respect of the use of petty cash in Care Homes.


Responding to a question, the Monitoring Officer confirmed that staff were periodically reminded about the process for raising an issue under the Whistleblowing Policy and that he was shortly to post a reminder on the staff Homepage of the Intranet. He indicated that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 85.


Production of the 2022-23 Draft Annual Governance Statement pdf icon PDF 546 KB

Additional documents:


Debbie Hogg, Director of Corporate Resources, gave a brief overview of the draft Annual Governance Statement (AGS) for the 2022/23 financial year, as appended to the report


The Council was required by virtue of the Accounts and Audit Regulations (England) 2015 to produce, approve and publicise an Annual Governance Statement.  The Council’s governance arrangements in place during 2022-23 have been reviewed and an Annual Governance Statement has been drafted which shows the Council’s our governance compliance.


Responding to a question from the Chair, the Director of Corporate Resources outlined the process and provided an update in relation to the estimated timescale for completion of the draft accounts. It was explained that the Council was legally required to produce an AGS and to review the draft AGS. An outline of the draft AGS is then presented to the Committee for review and endorsement, prior to it being published for consultation and incorporated as part of the Council’s draft accounts. The audit of the accounts would take place during the summer and a review of the AGS would be undertaken at that time to determine whether any significant matters would need to be incorporated into the final Statement of Accounts.


Gareth Mills, Director of Grant Thornton in commenting on the report, stated that it was good to see the draft AGS being presented to the Committee and stakeholders in advance of the year end audit of the accounts process which is good practice. He then provided a brief update on the draft accounts. It was noted that completion of the accounts by September 2023 was not achievable and that he would provide further details in this respect under Members consideration of the agenda item relating to the Council’s Audit Plan for 2022/23.  The Assistant Director of Finance further reported that the AGS would be updated to ensure that it aligned with the Audit Plan.


Further to clarity being sought by the Chair, the Head of Internal Audit confirmed that he was satisfied that the draft AGS reflected good governance arrangements in Doncaster and that no specific items had been identified through the work of the Internal Team for inclusion on the AGS.


RESOLVED that the outline draft Annual Governance Statement for 2022/23 be endorsed, prior to it being published for consultation as part of the 2022-23 City of Doncaster Council Draft Accounts.


Audit Committee Annual Report 2022/23. pdf icon PDF 335 KB


The Head of Internal Audit introduced the Audit Committee’s Annual report, which sets out the key aspects of the work undertaken by the Committee during 2022/23 and the positive impact and achievements made by the Committee.  The Annual report demonstrates that the Committee has fulfilled its Terms of Reference and shared its achievements with the whole Council. The production of such a report also complies with current best practice for Audit Committees.


The Head of Internal Audit advised that this year’s report did not include an assessment of the effectiveness of the Council’s governance as done so in previous years, however the Audit Committee’s Improvement Action Plan was appended to the report at Appendix B and identified three minor issues to be actioned.


It was noted that the report was a very encouraging report, recognising the positive outcomes achieved in an again challenging year, the positive assurance it has received over the Council’s, risk, governance and control arrangements.  The Committee’s effective contribution to the audit function and its achievements during the year were set out in Appendix A of the report.The Committee was asked to note and approve the draft Audit Committee Annual Report for 2022/23, appended to the report.


Gareth Mills, Director of Grant Thornton highlighted a minor drafting error in relation to the second bullet point in Appendix 1 to the report (page 74 of the agenda papers), which incorrectly made reference to the ‘External Auditor’s Annual Audit Letter’, which is no longer in existence and had been replaced with the ‘Auditors Annual Report.’ He also suggested that the report be expanded upon to make reference to place more emphasis that there were not many large metropolitan local authorities nationally in particularly the size of Doncaster to have concluded the accounts and the Value For Money conclusion by January 2023 which was a real achievement for the Finance Team. The Chair thanked the Director, Grant Thornton for his comments and in acknowledging the Finance Teams achievements, pointed out that other local authorities were not in the same position in as Doncaster in terms of completing the accounts in the timeframe achieved.


To conclude, the Chair wished to place on record his thanks to Dr Stuart Green for the contribution he had made to the work of the Committee during the past year. 


RESOLVED that the Audit Committee approved the Audit Committee Annual Report 2022/23 as appended to the report and for it to be suitably published.




Annual Report of the Head of Internal Audit 2022/23. pdf icon PDF 359 KB


The Committee considered a report, presented by Peter Jackson, Head of Internal Audit, which provided information on the work of Internal Audit during 2022/23, as set out at Appendix 1 of the report, including the Head of Internal Audit’s overall opinion on the adequacy and effectiveness of the Council’s governance, risk management and control arrangements. The report also supported the annual review of the Council’s arrangements and the subsequent preparation and publication of an Annual Governance Statement.


The Head of Internal Audit outlined the key points in the report, highlighting that there were low levels of overdue management actions and no particular areas of concern had been identified. He reported that he was satisfied with the Council’s governance, risk management and control arrangements, which were adequate and operated effectively during the year. Internal Audit’s work this year had not identified any particular serious areas of concern or services to be considered for inclusion in the Council’s Annual Governance Statement.


In answer to a question from the Chair, it was noted that the large number of overdue management actions relating to school audits had not been included within the mainstream management action figures of the Authority, as the figures would be distorted. This was due to the risk levels relating to individual schools and the audits undertaken had resulted in a large number of actions as was the nature of these audits. Internal Audit were working with Head teachers and School Governors at the schools to agree the management actions.  Internal Audit had met with the new Head of Service who oversees all schools with regard to the processes in place to escalate implementation of the overdue actions and it was hoped that the numbers would be reduced in future. 


The Vice-Chair welcomed the reduction in the number of overdue management actions, in particular, noting the positive results relating to high-risk level management actions, and in view of this asked whether Internal Audit should adopt a more agile approach in the future with regard to the audits. The Head of Internal Audit confirmed that Internal Audit endeavoured to adopt such an approach with less coverage given to assurance audits.  Internal Audit were currently recruiting new staff to expand data analysis capacity within the team to increase the amount of data driven work so that real-time assurance is generated from the systems.  In addition, work was also being undertaken in the Children Young People and Families directorate for Internal Audit to oversee the arrangements in place in relation to the Dedicated Schools Grant to ensure that preventative measures are in place. It was further reported that the Internal Audit risk based plan would direct resources into those areas where value can be most added. Audit software systems were also being developed to provide detailed assessments of audits and going forward would generate heat maps as seen in the Counter Fraud Plan, mapping out risks to cover all directorates across the Council.




(1)       note that the Internal Audit Annual Report for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 88.


Internal Audit Plan 2023/24. pdf icon PDF 139 KB

Additional documents:


The Committee considered the Annual Internal Audit Plan for 2023/24, as attached at Appendix 1 of the report, which had been prepared in line with the UK Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (UKPSIAS).  The Plan had been created following a review of the risks and controls of Council activities. 


In presenting the report, the Head of Internal Audit outlined the following three areas of the Audit Plan:-


·         Planned audit work

·         Planned advice and consultancy work

·         Separate Counter Fraud Plan


It was noted that contingencies were in place to allow for flexibility in the Plan and there was currently sufficiency of resource in the Internal Audit team. 


In response to a question from Councillor Healy regarding Internal Audit’s review of school audits, it was clarified that the names of the schools in the Audit Plan were not specified at an initial stage of the audit process, as this allowed the team more flexibility to determine from the intelligence received, as to whether an audit of the schools financial and governance controls was required. 


Further to concerns raised by Councillor Healy, the Head of Internal Audit advised that Academies were outside the scope of the Council’s Internal Audit Plan. Academies did not fall under the jurisdiction of the Local Authority and therefore, have their own auditing arrangements in place.


The Vice-Chair, Councillor Bluff in referring to the Internal Audit Plan noted that Salford Internal Audit Services were to undertake an audit review of ICT 3rd Party Suppliers.  He asked whether the Council’s overall exposure with the Council moving to a Cloud based computer system and general Cyber security had been reflected in the Internal Audit Plan and whether Salford Internal Audit Services would be carrying out a review of the Council’s IT systems, including Ransomware. In response, the Head of Internal Audit advised that Salford had recently carried out a needs assessment and the outcome would be reported to Internal Audit next week.  Discussions were taking place between Internal Audit and the Digital and ICT team regarding further planned coverage and Internal Audit would be making an assessment of the work required based on need.


Responding to questions from the Chair, the Head of Internal Audit reported that interviews were to take place next week to recruit to staff to expand data analysis capacity in the team.  In relation to the delivery of the Internal Audit Plan, the Head of Internal Audit confirmed that he was confident that the Plan was sufficient for him to provide an annual audit opinion. The Head of Internal Audit also confirmed that the Council’s Internal Audit’s approach in terms of the Internal Audit Plan was consistent with other Local Authorities Internal Audit teams and had met professional standards following a Qualitative assessment undertaken of Internal Audit last year. He held the view that Doncaster was at a higher standard than the median Local Authority.




(1)    the principles and strategy underpinning the 2023/24 Internal Audit Plan. as set out in Section 1  ...  view the full minutes text for item 89.


Counter Fraud Activity report. pdf icon PDF 633 KB


Consideration was given to the Council’s Counter Fraud Plan for 2023/24, which had been constructed in line with the Council’s Anti-Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Framework, as approved by the Audit Committee in April 2021 and in line with the Fighting Fraud and Corruption Strategy 2020 for Local Government


The Head of Internal Audit summarised the following elements in the report:-


·         Horizon scanning for new fraud risks;

·         The assessment of current fraud risks for the Council;

·         Information on counter fraud resource levels; and

·         Presentation of the new Counter Fraud Plan for City of Doncaster Council and an assurance map mapping coverage of the plan and activities to the risks on the fraud risk register.


In responding to questions from the Chair, the Head of Internal Audit clarified that Horizon scanning relates to any regional, national, or local issues in respect of fraud that could potentially impact upon the Council which have been included as part of the Council’s risk assessment. In relation to the Fraud Risk Heat Map, the purpose of which was to provide clearer visibility of Internal Audits proposed coverage of work and ensured that resources are directed to the areas of need. It was anticipated that in future that the Heat map would be utilised by other areas across the Council.


Arising from a further question from the Chair, the Head of Internal Audit confirmed that he was satisfied in terms of the adequacy of arrangements in place in relation to the assessments undertaken in the Counter Fraud Plan. He advised that whilst a benchmarking exercise of neighbouring authorities in terms of the standard of the report had not been undertaken, he confirmed that the report met best practice.


Members made reference to the £52bn estimated costs by the Government relating to Public Sector fraud, as set out in the Appendix of the report and highlighted the limited resources available and insufficient funding for Local Authorities to combat Fraud, in particular cyber fraud. However, Members were reassured that the majority of these costs related to fraud at a national level in respect of Department of Works and Pensions and HMRC fraud. In terms of Cyber security risks for the Council, these related to the level of transactions taking place and the level of activity by the Council was low risk. The Committee was reassured that the Council have effective arrangements in place to minimise the risk from cyber fraud. The Council have recently established a Cyber Security Team who worked in conjunction with the Internal Audit Team to counter fraud activity thereby minimising the risk of cyber-attacks on its systems.


The Vice-Chair, in welcoming the controls in place to mitigate against cyber risks, asked whether the cyber risks identified on the Heat map included Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud. The Head of Internal Audit confirmed that the audit needs assessment that had been undertaken by Salford Internal Audit Services provided a break down covering all areas of cyber fraud, including APP. The Council in recent years have invested  ...  view the full minutes text for item 90.


External Auditor (Grant Thornton) Audit Plan 2022/23 and Arrangements for the preparation of the 2022/23 Accounts. pdf icon PDF 5 MB


Perminder Sethi, Engagement Senior Manager presented the External Auditors Audit Plan 2022/23, which informed the Committee on key matters arising from the audit of the Councils financial statements for the year ending 31st March 2023, including arrangements for the preparation of the 2022/23 Accounts.


The Engagement Senior Manager provided an overview of the key matters in the report:-


  • national context and relevant matters affecting the Council.
  • The Council’s financial position
  • Doncaster Children’s Services Trust being transferred back to the Council
  • Doncaster Sheffield Airport closure, options to acquire the facility and CPO
  • Doncaster City Status
  • Audit Reporting Delays
  • External Auditors response to matters as outlined above


He highlighted that the External Auditor remained committed to proving quality and would continue to monitor the Council’s financial position with management and continue its work regarding Value for Money, governance, economy, efficiencies and effectiveness arrangements.  He outlined some of the areas that the External Auditor were to focus on, in particular, in relation to the transition of DCST transferring back into the Council. It was noted that DCST had regular dialogue with the finance team regarding bringing accounts back to the Council and payments to charges. The Engagement Senior Manager also referred to the ongoing work following the Ofsted Inspection taken place last year.


The following significant risks had been identified which were outlined in detail in the Plan:-


·         Management over-ride of controls

·         Valuation of land and buildings

·         Valuations of the net pension fund

·         Accounting for the transition of Doncaster Children’s Trust back in to the Council on 1st  September 2022


The External Auditors further outlined that a risk assessment regarding the Council’s arrangements to secure Value for Money had not identified any risks of significant weaknesses, but would continue to update its risk assessment until the Auditors Annual report.


In relation to materiality, it was noted that this had been set at £10,648m for the group and £10,433k for the Council, with £532k being identified for trivial matters for the group.  With regard to audit logistics, interim planning works had been completed and interim work takes place in July and from July onwards final accounts work commences.  It was anticipated that the accounts audit work to be completed by end of October and a report be presented to the Audit Committee in November.  Work on the Council’s Value for Money arrangements was expected to be completed at the end of the year.


The Chair on behalf of the Committee, thanked the Engagement Senior Manager for his report. Further to a question from the Chair regarding the Council’s progress made against prior year External Audit recommendations, the Assistant Director of Finance confirmed that the outstanding action to address the strengthening of the password settings for Northgate database administrators following the External Auditors 2020-21 assessment of the Council’s risks have now been completed. The Chair welcomed that all of External Auditors 2020-21 recommendations were now complete.


In response to questions from the Vice-Chair, the Engagement Senior Manager, Grant Thornton advised that the External Auditor’s IT  ...  view the full minutes text for item 91.


External Auditor (Grant Thornton) Audit Committee Progress Report and Sector Update. pdf icon PDF 3 MB


Gareth Mills, Director, Grant Thornton introduced the External Auditors progress report, highlighting the progress made on work carried out by External Audit in delivering their responsibilities in auditing the Council’s accounts as at 18th April 2023. The report also provided a summary of emerging national issues and developments of relevance to the Council.


The Director, Grant Thornton highlighted the key headlines in the report. The External Auditor had concluded its work on the financial statements for 2021-22 by the end of early November as planned; with the exception of the national accounting issue relating to infrastructure assets, which had been resolved. The statutory instrument to override on the infrastructure assets was approved on 25th December 2022 and the audit had been concluded on 30th January 2023 issuing a 'clean' unqualified audit opinion on the Council’s financial statements for 2021-22. The Director, Grant Thornton highlighted the achievements by both the Finance team and External Audit to conclude the audit within the deadline.


In relation to the financial statements for the 2022-23 audit, Members were informed that the current national statutory date of 30th September 2023 for sign off, of the audit of accounts 2022/23 was not achievable and it was now anticipated that the date for completion of the accounts would be November. The Director, Grant Thornton spoke of the challenges faced by External Audit in completing public sector audits due to the external audit market being under significant pressure, which had affected the timeliness of issuing the audit opinions across the local authority sector. In addition, the work of the External Auditor has also been impacted by the NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups audits having to be extended to a later date, which had created a significant number of part-year accounts audits to be delivered in 2023, largely by the same auditors and audit firms who deliver local authority audits. He provided assurances that the November completion date was consistent with the External Auditor 2019-20 and 2020-21 opinions, and with the 2021-22 audit work, with the exception of the national infrastructure matter, which had been concluded by the end of January. The Director, Grant Thornton emphasised that the proposed timetable was not a reflection of the Finance Team, or the wider Council, but it was because of the level of Public Sector audit work to be delivered by Grant Thornton across its NHS and local authority client base. He added that the Finance team’s delivery and quality of the audit compared favourably to other local authorities.


In relation to the Council’s Value for Money arrangements, it was anticipated that this was to be concluded by December 2023 and a report submitted to the Audit Committee in January 2024.


Members’ attention were drawn to Grant Thornton’s publication entitled ‘About Time’, which had been circulated to the Finance team and shared with the Audit Committee prior to the meeting. The publication provided an analysis regarding achievement of local authorities sign off, of the accounts covering the last six years. It was reported that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 92.