Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: Committee Room - Town Hall, Station Road, Clacton-on-Sea, CO15 1SE. View directions

Contact: Keith Durran Email:  kdurran@tendringdc.gov.uk or Telephone  01255 686585

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Items
No. Item

16.

Election of the Vice-Chairman of the Committee

The Committee is required to elect, from amongst its appointed membership, the Vice-Chairman of the Committee to serve in that office for the remainder of the 2023/2024 Municipal Year.

 

NOTE:

 

The office of Vice-Chairman of the Audit Committee is currently vacant due to the fact that Ian Lennard, the previous Vice-Chairman, is no longer a serving member of Tendring District Council following his resignation from the office of Councillor.

 

Minutes:

Following the resignation from the Council of Ian Lennard, the Committee was required to elect, from amongst its appointed membership, a new Vice-Chairman of the Committee to serve in that office for the remainder of the 2023/2024 Municipal Year.

 

It was moved by Councillor Platt and seconded by Councillor Fairley that Councillor Fairley be appointed as Vice-Chairman of the Committee.

 

 On being put to the vote, Councillor Platt’s motion was declared LOST on the Chairman’s casting vote.

 

It was then moved by Councillor Morrison and seconded by Councillor Sudra that Councillor Steady be appointed as Vice-Chairman of the Committee.

 

 On being put to the vote, it was RESOLVED, on the Chairman’s casting vote, that Councillor Graham Steady be appointed as Vice-Chairman of the Audit Committee for the remainder of the 2023/2024 Municipal Year.

 

17.

Apologies for Absence and Substitutions

The Committee is asked to note any apologies for absence and substitutions received from Members.

 

Minutes:

An apology for absence was received from Councillor Steady (with no substitution).

18.

Minutes of the Last Meeting pdf icon PDF 211 KB

To confirm and sign as a correct record, the minutes of the last meeting of the Committee, held on Thursday, 5 October 2023.

Minutes:

It was RESOLVED that the Minutes of the last meeting of the Committee held on Thursday 5 October 2023 be approved as a correct record and be signed by the Chairman, subject to the following alteration and amendment to Minute 10 that:

 

“Minutes of the last meeting of the Committee held on Thursday 30 March 2023” has the date corrected to “Thursday 13 July 2023”.

19.

Declarations of Interest

Councillors are invited to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests, Other Registerable Interests of Non-Registerable Interests, and the nature of it, in relation to any item on the agenda.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest made on this occasion.

20.

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.

 

Minutes:

No Questions on Notice pursuant to the provisions of Council Procedure Rule 38 had been submitted on this occasion.

21.

Report of the Assistant Director (Finance & IT) - A.2 - Table of Outstanding Issues pdf icon PDF 150 KB

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.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee heard an oral update from  Steve Bladen of  this Council’s external auditors. He explained that they were awaiting formal consultations to be launched by the Department for Levelling Up, Homes and Communities. Additionally, the National Audit Office was due to shortly launch a consultation on a revised code of audit practice. The consultations aimed to establish a backstop date of September 30, 2024, for completing audits up to and including the 2022-2023 fiscal year. Notably, there were numerous audits pending for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 periods across all suppliers, irrespective of the appointed audit firm.

 

Members heard how the backstop date might have resulted in qualified audit opinions due to incomplete audit work or disclaimed opinions for audits not initiated. The Minister for Local Government had recently sent a letter to the Chair of the Parliamentary Select Committee for Homes and Communities outlining those details. Whilst the Government’s  formal consultation hadn't yet commenced,  it was anticipated  imminently. Steve Bladen stated that, realistically,  BDO wouldn't have been able to complete the audits for 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 by the end of September. Consequently, they expected those audits to be qualified in some manner. There might have been variations in the value-for-money conclusion, with auditors likely required to assess arrangements over the tendering period.

 

This summarized the Auditor’s understanding at the time. While no formal consultation had begun, they anticipated its launch within the next week. The proposed backstop date for open audits was September 30, 2024.

 

QUESTIONS

ANSWERS

Are you confident you will meet this date (new back stop date).

Yes, we are confident we will if that is the date set by Central Government.

To clarify, some of the work will be completed by this date, but it will not be a complete report?

Yes, we don’t think we could supply a complete report by that date.

This is a reduced service, so are you going to charge reduced costs?

Fees are set by the PSSA, they are looking to see if there is potentially a way to set  reduced fees, due to the reduced work.

Could we hear from the Head of Finance and IT on this fees matter.

Government has made it clear that Councils can only spend money for work that has been received.

What level of assurance can you give us that this work will be completed?

High level of assurance.

Can you assure the Committee that you have everything that you need to complete your work?

There may be unknowns still to arise, and questions we may need answers to, but outside of this, yes, we have everything.

 

 

TABLE OF OUTSTANDING ISSUES

 

The Committee heard from the Executive Projects Manager (Governance) as she explained that the Table of Outstanding Issues had been reviewed and updated since it was last considered by the Committee in October 2023.

 

There were usually two main elements to this report as follows:

 

1) Updates against general items raised by the Committee

2) Updates against the 2023 Annual Governance Statement  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.

22.

Report of the Internal Audit Manager - A.1 - Report on Internal Audit pdf icon PDF 48 KB

To provide the Committee with a periodic report on the Internal Audit function for the period September 2023 – December 2023, as required by the professional standards.

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee heard how seven audits  had been completed between September  and December 2023, with all receiving satisfactory assurance with no significant issues reported. At that time of this meeting, one audit (Financial Resilience) was at the Draft Report stage awaiting finalization. Seven audits from the 2023/24 Internal Audit Plan were in the fieldwork phase, while the final nine audits were being risk-assessed and allocated based on available resources. Although there were nine audits due for scoping and progress in that quarter, the Internal Audit Team  was not too far behind compared to the same time last year. Hence, there was no concern at that stage regarding the completion of enough audit work by the end of the financial year to provide the Head of Internal Audit with enough evidence for his Annual Opinion. Any necessary changes to the audit plan would be communicated to the Audit Committee. The majority of the key system audits were either complete or nearing completion, which carried significant weight in contributing to the annual opinion. In terms of Quality Assurance, satisfaction surveys  had been issued for each completed audit. Three surveys were received out of the seven reviews undertaken, all providing satisfactory responses.

 

Members were updated on resourcing: Internal Audit had an establishment of 4 FTE posts with access to a third-party provider of Internal Audit Services for specialist audit days when required. There was a vacant Audit Technician post. One team member had been off sick since the beginning of November 2023, leading to approved overtime for another staff member to ensure minimal delay in delivering the audit plan. At the last committee meeting, it  had been reported that an apprentice had started to provide administrative support. The apprentice had since gained full-time employment within the Council, resulting in the loss of administrative support for the audit team, necessitating the recruitment of another apprentice..

 

Regarding outcomes of Internal Audit Work, the standards required the  Head of Internal Audit to report to the Audit Committee on significant risk exposures and control issues. Since the last report, nine audits had been completed, and the final report issued, aligning with Public Sector Internal Audit Standards.

 

Assurance

Colour

Number this Period

Total for 2022/23Plan

 

Substantial

 

3

7

 

Adequate

 

3

12

 

Improvement Required

 

0

0

 

Significant Improvement Required

 

0

0

 

No Opinion Required

 

1

2

Two consultative engagement in 2023/24 to date

 

In the color-coding approach, both the substantial and adequate opinions were shown in green as both were within acceptable tolerances.

 

Issues that arose from audits completed in the period under review that had received an 'Improvement Required' opinion  required reporting to the Committee. There were no such significant issues identified within this period of completed audits.

 

Regarding the Management Response to Internal Audit Findings, processes were 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 were arranged to revisit significant issues identified after an appropriate time.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.

23.

Report of the Assurance and Resilience Manager - A.3 - Anti Fraud and Corruption Strategy pdf icon PDF 154 KB

To present to the Audit Committee an updated Anti-Fraud and Corruption Strategy.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee heard how the Council  was required to have an Anti-Fraud and Corruption Strategy, and that it  had last been updated in January 2023. The strategy was subject to an annual review process.

 

The amended strategy was set out in the  appendix. Amendments made since the last review were highlighted in red/ italic font. For completeness, any sections being removed had been retained for the purpose of reporting the final version back to the Committee, with the font being struck through and in a red/ italic font.

 

Members heard how the Strategy continued to be based on CIPFA’s code of practice on managing the risk of fraud and corruption. As its foundation, the Strategy set out the Council’s commitments along with the following key areas:

 

·         Purpose, Commitment and Procedure

 

·         Legislation and General Governance

 

·         Definitions 

 

·         Standards, Expectations and Commitment

·         Roles and Responsibilities

 

·         Prevention 

·         Detection and Investigation.

 

·         Resources Invested in Counter Fraud and Corruption

 

The strategy would continue to be subject to an annual review process including progress against identified actions and had therefore been included on the ongoing work programme of the Committee. It was acknowledged that through its application, the Strategy would evolve to reflect the various strands of work being developed within the Council, which would be included in future updates presented to the Committee.

 

Updates against the Council’s Anti-Fraud and Corruption Strategy Action Plan were also included within the  appendices.

 

After a short debate the Committee RESOLVED to:

 

a)    approve the amended Anti-Fraud and Corruption Strategy, as set out in Appendix A  to report A.3;

b)     request that going forward the annual review of the Anti-Fraud and Corruption Strategy report additionally on the effectiveness of it, for its previous 12 months; and

c)    that information  be brought to  that annual review of the most common cases/types of fraud over the previous 12 months.