Agenda item

INTERNAL AUDIT PROGRESS REPORT 2021/22 TO 10TH SEPTEMBER 2021

A report of the Head of Strategic Support.

Minutes:

A report of the Head of Strategic Support was submitted summarising the progress against the 2021/22 Audit Plan, outlining key findings from final reports and any outstanding recommendations. (Item 5 on the agenda filed with these minutes).

 

The Audit Manager and Senior Auditor attended the meeting to assist the Committee with the consideration of this item and noted that the progress report covered up to 10th September.  She provided a verbal update as follows:

 

·         Six reports had been issued since the last Committee meeting, three had related to the 2020-21 Audit Plan and had concluded the Plan.  Three related to this year and there were no concerns in relation to working through the Audit Plan at this point.

·         Overdue recommendations were set out in Appendix C  and that as the majority of the reports were issued post January the data was slightly skewed.  However any issues raised were anticipated to be resolved by the next Committee meeting.

·         Reference was made to changes within the Team.  Temporary resources would be recruited for any identified long-term gaps and no disruption was expected to the delivery of the Audit plan.

 

The Committee were advised in response to questions that:

·         Regulations for money laundering no longer covered Local Authorities and it was considered of small risk for Councils.  Although it was not a legislative requirement, it was good practice to have a money laundering policy and one was being drafted for the Council to be completed by end October.

·         with reference to the cleansing exercise and leavers having access to systems revoked, a process was in place but was not always tightly followed.  This did refer to the Housing System and was not related to accessing other Council systems.  It had been recommended that the Service continued to review system users on a quarterly basis.

·         Complaints regarding Tenancy Management and Housing were reviewed by the Audit Team if there were issues but not routinely considered as it was anticipated that any issues would be identified primarily through performance management processes and the current Finance and Performance Scrutiny Committee.  It was noted that previous scrutiny committees had received monitoring reports concerning complaints in this area but these reports had been discontinued when the Committee was superseded.

·         issues raised in the Audit on asset management would be considered by the Asset management team as these related mostly to strategy and guidelines.

·         the outstanding gas servicing contract monitoring recommendation was currently prioritised as medium and the resignation of the Compliance Gas Inspection Surveyor was not considered significant to change the priority of this action.  The recommendation related to a reconciliation between different systems, processes were in place and it was this short-term unexpected event that had delayed the completion of the agreed action.

·         with respect to points raised in audits that had been issued with limited assurance opinions, Services were responsible for having the appropriate processes in place and were given advance notice of the dates of the internal audits.  Senior managers were consulted in detail when the next year’s audit plan was being drafted and would therefore be aware of areas to be audited.

·         recommendations where there had been a slippage of dates for actions to be completed and implemented were escalated to Strategic Directors to ensure they were completed in a timely manner.  It was also noted that attendance of officers at the Audit Committee to explain delays could be considered, if required.

·         the number of days referenced in the 2021/22 Audit plan was the total for the year and a starting point.  There had been deductions for attending committee meetings, drafting of reports and management days which had decreased the number of days to approximately 200 days and the contingency wasn’t reflected in the plan. The plan would change throughout the year as audits were added and removed as expected when providing  risk based internal audit service.  For a better comparison between years it was advised to use the Audit Plan report (submitted to the Committee in March).  In addition, the number of days had dropped when the Council joined the internal shared service.

·         reference was made to the Asset Management Audit agreed actions and the desire for progress updates during the year to ensure slippage was not occurring.  It was noted that a report would be submitted to the Cabinet in early Spring 2022.

·         it was preferred that responsibilities that would have been undertaken by the Asset Management Group to develop a repairs and maintenance programme to assist in the prioritisation of expenditure on assets was undertaken by the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) who wished to see oversight of this matter.  Although the budget and portfolio holders were also members of SLT and could have any conflicting responsibilities, it was considered that any disagreements would be resolved within the SLT discussion process.

·         the implementation date of May 2022 to review the training to be carried out to ensure officers and members received the correct level of training to reflect their responsibilities within the risk management process was considered appropriate.  Management were reviewing risk on a regular basis and training to be completed would consist of refresher training as appropriate officers had been previously trained and senior officers were experienced in the process.

·         the performance indicator for the delivery of 2021/22 Audit Plan at 36% did not indicate any slippage and since the drafting of the report this figure had increased to 50%.   It was not expected that the Audit Plan would be 100% delivered by the end of March but this was considered acceptable.  It was noted that the quarterly reporting timetable did not fully align with the Audit Committee meeting timetable.

 

Members were concerned that many of the recommendations in the report related to updating policies, procedures and training and considered whether to escalate the matter.  It was noted that the COVID pandemic had impacted on the resources to update policies and procedures and that the Committee were minded to take this into consideration.

 

With respect to training of councillors appointed to Cabinet or the Audit Committee who had not attended training in scrutinising of commercial properties, the Head of Strategic Support stated he would investigate and circulate a response to the Committee.

 

RESOLVED

 

1.    that the report be noted;

 

2.    that managers are reminded when the annual internal audit plan is approved and to consider reviewing policies, procedures and training in the areas subject to the audit;

 

3.    That the Committee continue to monitor the Asset Management Strategy Audit findings and status of agreed actions at its next meeting;

 

4.    That the Committee review the status of policies procedures and training recommendations at its next meeting with a view to escalating if it continues to be an issue.

 

Reasons

 

1.    To ensure the Committee is kept informed of progress against the Internal Audit plan and work of Internal Audit.

 

2.    Members considered that reminding managers of the approved internal audit plan could reduce the number of actions relating to policies, procedures and training.

 

3.    The Committee considered that the Asset management Strategy in particular was of high importance and a regular monitoring of the actions was merited.

 

4.    The Committee was concerned with the number of recommendations in the Audit Plan and wished to review this at its next meeting.

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