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Apologies for Absence and Substitutions
The Committee is asked to note any apologies for absence and substitutions received from Members.
Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillor Miles (with no substitute).
To confirm and sign as a correct record, the minutes of the last meeting of the Committee, held on Thursday 29 July 2021.
The Minutes of the last meeting of the Committee held on Thursday 29 July 2021 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Declarations of Interest
Councillors are invited to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Personal Interest, and the nature of it, in relation to any item on the agenda.
There were no declarations of interest made on this occasion.
Questions on Notice pursuant to Council Procedure Rule 38
Subject to providing two working days’ notice, a Member of the Committee may ask the Chairman of the Committee a question on any matter in relation to which the Council has powers or duties which affect the Tendring District and which falls within the terms of reference of the Committee.
There were no Questions on Notice on this occasion.
To provide the Committee with a periodic report on the Internal Audit function for the period July 2021 – August 2021, and review the Internal Audit Charter for approval, as required by the professional standards.
The Committee had before it a report submitted by the Council’s Internal Audit Manager (A.1) which provided it with a periodic update on the Internal Audit function for the period July to August 2021 and enabled it to review the Internal Audit Charter for approval as required by the professional standards.
The Committee was also informed how Internal Audit continued to provide advice on the office transformation programme, the digital transformation programme and project management on a consultative basis.
Outcomes of Internal Audit Work
Members were aware that the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (PSIAS) required the Internal Audit Manager to report to the Audit Committee on significant risk exposures and control issues. Since the last report four audits had been completed and the final report issued.
*For the purpose of the colour coding approach, both the substantial and adequate opinions were shown in green as both were within acceptable tolerances.
There had been no significant issues identified within the audits completed during the reporting period.
Management Response to Internal Audit Findings
The Committee was reminded that there were processes in place to track the action taken regarding findings raised in Internal Audit reports and to seek assurance that appropriate corrective action had been taken. Where appropriate, follow up audits had been arranged to revisit significant issues identified after an appropriate time.
The number of high severity issues outstanding was as follows:-
Update on previous significant issues reported
Fleet Management Policy
The Committee was informed that the Fleet Management Policy had been put forward to the Human Resources & Council Tax Committee in July 2021 for its approval. However, the Committee had requested some additional changes to be made to the policy and to be brought back to the next meeting of the Committee in October 2021.
Members were also advised that the Acting Transport Manager had now sat his final exam and that the results were expected at the end of October 2021.
Planning Enforcement Policy
The Committee was made aware that the Policy had now been reviewed by the Legal Services Team and was now back with the Planning Enforcement Team for its further review and consultation before it could then be considered for formal adoption.
In respect of the above, the Assistant Director (Finance & IT) undertook to provide members of the Committee with an update in relation to:-
(i) the contingencies in place and options available should the Acting Transport Manager fail the exam; and
(ii) the expected time scale for the Planning Enforcement Team’s completion of its further review of the Planning Enforcement Policy.
Internal Audit Charter
The Committee recalled that it was a requirement of the PSIAS for the Audit Committee to review and approve the Internal Audit Charter ... view the full minutes text for item 18.
To present to the Audit Committee the updated Corporate Risk Register.
The Committee had before it a report submitted by the Assistant Director (Finance & IT) (report A.2) which presented it with the updated Corporate Risk Register.
It was reported that, although no changes had been identified as being required at this time, the corporate risk framework had been included at Appendix A to the report for Members’ reference. A review of the framework was due to take place later in 2021/22.
The Committee was advised that, although COVID related matters continued to affect the whole organisation, they were not reflected in the risk register itself, in order that sight was not lost of the risk register’s purpose.
Members were made aware that a review of lessons learnt relating to COVID 19 had now been included in the Internal Audit Plan for 2021/22 and would be brought before the Audit Committee at a later meeting.
The Committee was reminded that Council services had now reopened and that the Council continued to ensure staff remained safe whilst carrying out their day-to-day duties.
The below table set out all amendments to the Risk Register since it had been last considered by the Committee in May 2021:-
Although not currently included within the risk register, Officers had highlighted the following two potential emerging issues:-
· Shortage of Global Supplies – due to various reasons (including the on-going impact of COVID 19) the risk of key supplies not being available when required had increased - one example being the shortage of computer processing chips. This was currently being managed via earlier procurement planning and remaining alert to market conditions. (Links to existing Corporate Risk associated with Failure to Delivier Key Services and Ineffective Business Continuity Planning)
· Failure to Deliver Key Contracts – as part of delivering key services to residents, where appropriate, the Council would engage with external providers on a commercial basis e.g. Essex County Council’s Careline Contract. As recognised during the associated decision making processes, there were significant financial and reputational risks associated with this approach. (Links to existing Corporate Risk associated with Ineffective Workforce Management and Planning)
The Committee was informed that the above two items would be kept under review and would be revisited / reported back to Members as part of the next corporate risk register update that was scheduled to be submitted to the Committee in March 2022.
Members were reminded that the Fraud and Risk Team continued to oversee the Council’s Risk Management supported by the Council’s Internal Audit Team. The table below set out the work that was currently ... view the full minutes text for item 19.
To present to the Committee the progress on outstanding actions identified by the Committee along with general updates on other issues that fall within the responsibilities of the Committee.
The Committee had before it a report submitted by the Assistant Director (Finance & IT) (A.3) which presented to the Committee the progress on outstanding actions identified by the Committee, together with updates on other general issues that fell within the responsibilities of the Committee.
Members were aware that a Table of Outstanding Issues was maintained and reported to each meeting of the Committee. That approach enabled the Committee to effectively monitor progress on issues and items that formed part of its governance responsibilities.
Updates were set out against general items, external audit recommendations and the Annual Governance statement within Appendices A, B, and C respectively to the Officer report.
The Committee was informed that to date there were no significant issues arising from the above, with work remaining in progress or updates provided elsewhere on the agenda where appropriate.
There were currently 3 main elements to this report as follows:-
1) Appendix A – Provided updates against general items raised by the Committee;
2) Appendix B - Provided updates against recommendations made by the Council’s External Auditor; and
3) Appendix C – Provided updates against the 2020/21 Annual Governance Statement Action Plan.
In terms of elements 1) and 2) above, the Committee was informed that there were no significant issues to raise, with actions remaining in progress. In terms of element 3), there continued to be a significant impact from COVID 19 in terms of progressing the actions as quickly as originally anticipated. However, activity remained in progress against all actions and work would continue during 2021/22, as required.
Members were advised that an External Audit Recommendation was set out in Appendix B in relation to the level of carry forwards from prior years. In previous updates to the Committee, it had been highlighted that a review of a range of funded projects had been undertaken in consultation with the relevant departments and that the sourcing of providing support across a number of areas was being investigated. Although this work remained on-going, the latest position was reported set out below:
Following the initial review by Corporate Directors / Assistant Directors highlighted above, the additional capacity that had been identified as being required primarily centred around:
In terms of procurement, as set out in a report considered by Cabinet on 17 September 2021, it was proposed to work in partnership with Essex County Council, which would allow the Council to not only access additional capacity but also specialist procurement advice / knowledge.
In terms of the other two items above, a report to the Portfolio Holder for Finance and Corporate Governance was currently being prepared to progress the required capacity building activities.
It was reported that the Statement of Accounts 2020/21 had been published and was currently subject to review by the Council’s External Auditor. Although it was required to be audited and republished by the end of September 2021, it remained subject to the conclusion of ... view the full minutes text for item 20.