Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: The Breckland Conference Centre, Anglia Room, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham, NR19 1EE

Contact: Democratic Services  01362 656870

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Items
No. Item

Councillor Kybird, Vice-Chairman of the Committee in the Chair.

1/22

Minutes (Agenda item 1) pdf icon PDF 254 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting held on 2 December 2021.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 2 December 2021 were agreed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman subject to Mr David Fowler’s name being added to the list of those present.

2/22

Actions arising from the Minutes (if any) (standing item) (Agenda item 2)

Minutes:

None.

3/22

Apologies (Agenda item 3)

To receive apologies for absence.

Minutes:

An apology for absence was received from the Chairman, Councillor Bill Borrett.

4/22

Urgent Business (Agenda item 4)

To note whether the Chairman proposes to accept any item as urgent business, pursuant to Section 100(B)(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972.

Minutes:

None.

5/22

Declaration of Interests (Agenda item 5)

The duties to register, disclose and not to participate for the entire consideration of the matter, in respect of any matter in which a Member has a disclosable pecuniary interest are set out in Chapter 7 of the Localism Act 2011.  Members are also required to withdraw from the meeting room as stated in the Standing Orders of this Council.

 

Minutes:

None declared.

6/22

Non-members wishing to address the meeting (Agenda item 6)

To note the names of any non-members wishing to address the meeting.

Minutes:

Councillors Birt and Robinson.

7/22

Training (Standing item) (Agenda item 7)

To note if there are any training issues/ requests.

Minutes:

None.

8/22

Q4 Strategic Risk report (Agenda item 8) pdf icon PDF 229 KB

Report of Sarah Barsby, Assistant Director, People and Governance.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Mark Robinson, the Executive Member for Customer, Digital & Performance presented the Q4 Strategic Risk report.

 

It was noted that a new risk had been added to the register since the last Governance & Audit Committee meeting, strategic contract monitoring. This risk had been suggested as best practice and was a low risk due to the systems and processes currently in place.

 

The register also included 4 high risks in respect of cyber security, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), waste consultation and emerging Government policy. The latest notes section included under each risk provided further details.

 

Ryan Pack, the Innovation & Change Business Partner was also in attendance and provided Members with further information in respect of the high category risks.

 

The cyber security risk was still under investigation following the cyber incident during Q3, and therefore had not progressed but was hopeful that further information could be provided at the next meeting in Q1. 

 

The HGV driver shortages risk was now at its target level and would be reviewed in Q1 to establish if it still met the criteria as a strategic risk or whether it could be absorbed into the operational staffing risk; this would be at the Committee’s discretion.

 

All ‘next review’ dates had been set at 1 April 2022. It was explained that ahead of the Q1 risk report, these risks would be reviewed to ensure that they still met the criteria for a strategic risk and if it did, a new target date would be set. 

 

Councillor Monument referred to the ‘critical breach of ICT security’ risk and asked for the actual ‘current score’ to be confirmed as it had been included on the register as 4x4 and the same for the previous score but in both cases, it had been listed as a 12 but in her opinion, it should be a 16.

 

The Innovation & Change Business Partner confirmed that it should be a score of 16 and would be amended accordingly.

 

The Chairman, Councillor Kybird felt that the answer to the satisfaction of this risk may not be suitable for reporting in public and asked how this would be dealt with.

 

Members were informed that this matter would be discussed as to whether it should be reported ‘below the line’ or not and further discussions would be had with ICT and the Executive Director to establish how this should be dealt with.  

 

Councillor Clarke asked a question in relation to the risk ‘increased demand on Housing services’, in respect of the serious shortfall in available and affordable temporary housing options, listed under the first the first bullet point under the heading potential consequences, as well as the second bullet point where it stated, ‘a shortfall in available longer-term housing’. He suggested that it might be helpful to have a link included on the register anything that was happening with Breckland Bridge and also the Local Plan.

 

The Innovation & Change Business Partner thanked Councillor Clarke for his comments and his suggestions would be considered.  The housing  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8/22

9/22

Progress Report on Internal Audit Activity up to 31 January 2022 in relation to the completion of the Annual Internal Audit Plan for 2021/22 (Agenda item 9) pdf icon PDF 291 KB

Report by Faye Haywood, Head of Internal Audit.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Faye Haywood, the Head of Internal Audit presented the report.

 

At the last Committee meeting in 2021, there had not been any results to highlight as the Audit Plan had been delayed but during the period covered for this report, five assurance reports had been finalised (see section 4.4 of the report) and as a result 12 recommendations had been raised and agreed by management. There were no negative assurance ratings to highlight.

 

At section 5 of the report, it explained the reasons for the delays in Quarter 2 and Quarter 3 but all work should be completed by the year end.

 

The progress in completion of the agreed audit work could be seen in Appendix 1 on page 43 of the agenda pack.

 

Members’ attention was then drawn to Appendix 2 of the agenda pack, the Executive summary and the first one, Accountancy services, there were not any urgent audit recommendations.  The focus then turned to the reasonable assurances and where a number of important recommendations had been raised.

 

Under Payroll and Human Resources on page 51 of the agenda pack, 2 important recommendations had been raised.  The first related to staff and not always submitting VAT receipts with their expense claims for fuel costs – all staff would be advised to attach receipts for their expenses claims.

 

The second point related to the current disclaimer used by Members when submitting mileage expense claims should be reviewed and additional wording added to include confirmation that Members also have a valid, current drivers’ licence, tax and a current MOT.

 

Moving to Covid 19 Business Grants, 4 important recommendations had been raised but it was felt important to highlight at this point that throughout 2020/21, £53.4m across 13 schemes and 14,000 applications had been processed.  The recommendations raised related to just 2 schemes, and it was felt that some additional controls needed to be carried out retrospectively.  These 2 schemes represented 22.5% of the overall total amount administered across all schemes.  Management had agreed to update the application forms to include key information to ensure that evidence was retained as part of the pre-payment checks. Pre and post payment assurance plans would be developed for all on-going Additional restrictions Grants.

 

Referring to the Contact Centre, one important recommendation had been raised and this related to the introduction of customer surveys to obtain customer feedback in order to improve the service further where possible.

 

The Chairman drew attention to page 53 of the agenda pack and questioned the section that stated that ‘all mileage expense claims should be promptly submitted and authorised within two months of the journey date and felt that it would be more practical to submit claims at the end of the month in the month when the journey occurred as to his knowledge such claims were signed off on a monthly basis.

 

In respect of Covid-19 Business Grants, Councillor Clarke hoped that we were now over the worst and the Council would not have to be plan  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9/22

10/22

Follow Up Report on Internal Audit Recommendations (Agenda item 10) pdf icon PDF 247 KB

Report by Faye Haywood, Head of Internal Audit.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Faye Haywood, the Head of Internal Audit presented the report, that provided Members with the position on the progress made by management in implementing agreed internal Audit recommendations as at 31 January 2022.

 

Members were reminded that if there were any outstanding recommendations that had gone past their original agreed date, these would be brought back to the Committee for further discussion.

 

The Head of Internal Audit was pleased to report that there were not any urgent or important recommendations outstanding (see page 67 of the agenda pack).

 

Senior Management and responsible Officers had been working really hard on the Pentana system to make sure that their recommendations were all closed on time.

 

There were a few low-risk recommendations that needed some attention, but these would be monitored accordingly.

 

The Chairman reminded Members that in the past, where there had been a back log of outstanding recommendations, there had been some form of detail provided and he felt that it would be preferable to be kept informed of what those outstanding recommendations were rather than just being provided with a number.

 

The Head of Internal Audit assured Members that she did have such information for the historical recommendations from 2018/19 but did not have the detail for the later ones but reported that the housing needs and the cyber security recommendations would again need to be extended, and the reasons for these extensions were explained.    An update would be provided at the next meeting.

 

It was noted that the ‘Priority 3’ recommendations that needed attention did represent ‘nice to have’ recommendations and were not fundamental to the control framework.

 

Mr Fowler, the Independent Member mentioned the 2018/19/20 outstanding recommendations and although quite a while ago, felt it would be helpful to have a more detailed update on progress.

 

The Head of Internal Audit stated that she would be more than happy to provide such information but stressed that these were more lower priority recommendations.

 

The content of the report was otherwise noted.

11/22

Strategic & Annual Internal Audit Plan 2022/23 (Agenda item 11) pdf icon PDF 244 KB

Report by Faye Haywood, Head of Internal Audit

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Faye Haywood, the Head of Internal Audit presented the report.

 

The report provided Members with an overview of the stages followed prior to the formulation of the Strategic Internal Audit Plan for 2022/23 to 2025/26 and the Annual Internal Audit Plan for 2022/23.

 

The main areas of the report contained:

 

·        the Internal Audit Strategy, which was a strategic high-level statement on how the internal audit service would be delivered and developed in accordance with the charter and how it linked to the organisational objectives and priorities;

·        the Strategic Internal Audit Plan, which detailed the plan of work for the next three financial years; and

·        the Annual Internal Audit Plan, which detailed the timing and the purpose of each audit agreed for inclusion in 2022/23

 

There was an obligation under the Public Sector Internal Audit Services (PSIAS) for the Charter to be periodically reviewed and presented. This Charter was therefore reviewed annually by the Head of Internal Audit and presented to the Section 151 Officer, Senior Management and the Governance and Audit Committee every two years, or as required for review. The Charter was last approved in 2021 and would therefore not need to be reviewed and approved by the Committee this year.

 

The purpose of the Internal Audit Strategy (see Appendix 1 of the report)was to confirm, how internal audit services would be delivered; how internal audit services would be developed in accordance with the internal audit charter; how internal audit services linked to organisational objectives and priorities; and how the internal audit resource requirements had been assessed.

 

The overarching objective of the Strategic Internal Audit Plan (see Appendix 2 of the report) was to provide a comprehensive programme of review work over the next three years, with each year providing sufficient audit coverage to provide annual opinions, that could be used to inform the Councils’ Annual Governance Statement.

 

Having developed the Strategic Internal Audit Plan, the Annual Internal Audit Plan was an extract of this for the forthcoming financial year (see Appendix 3 of the report).  The Plan included the areas being reviewed by Internal Audit, the number of days for each review, the quarter during which the audit would take place and a brief summary and purpose of the review.

 

The report also provided further details of the audit procurement exercise (see section 2 at Appendix 1).

 

The main part of the report that Members would be particularly interested in started at Appendix 2 of the report. Meetings had been undertaken with all services and their risks had been discussed together with their objectives and delivery plans for the year ahead and this work had resulted in the Strategic Internal Audit Plan.  The rationale could be seen in the last column of the Plan. The ‘orange’ areas represented further information awaited and the results of this year to be concluded.

 

Appendix 3 of the report highlighted the Annual Internal Audit Plan 2022/23 that included the number of days, and the areas that would be looked at that  ...  view the full minutes text for item 11/22

12/22

Verbal Discussion on the Self Assessment (Agenda item 12) pdf icon PDF 283 KB

Faye Haywood, Head of Internal Audit.

Minutes:

This item was facilitated by the Head of Internal Audit to provide an update on the process and provide a report to the next meeting for discussion.

 

This self-assessment of good practice was carried out on an annual basis and the Committee had always viewed itself as having strong controls in place and good practices was being followed throughout.

 

Members were asked if any changes were needed.   

 

The Chairman drew attention to item on ‘Value for Money or Best Value’ and was aware that external audit no longer required the Committee to express a view on this subject and asked if there needed to be further work carried out on this matter, in determining how this authority measured its own value for money.

 

Alison Chubbock, the Assistant Director of Finance & S151 Officer explained that whilst the value for money opinion was no longer the same from the Council’s External Auditors, they still reported to us as part of the accounts and felt that reliance could still be placed on this matter.  The External Auditors reported on three specific criteria’s, financial sustainability, governance and improving economy, efficiency and effectiveness.  Therefore, whilst it was slightly different the same work was carried out and the Committee would still receive an annual report from Ernst & Young.

 

The Chairman asked if this should be included in the figures for the Band D Council Tax and asked if this could be looked at

 

Councillor Monument thought it was lovely to see a complete line of ‘ticks’ under ‘yes’ but the only query she had was why there was a ‘tick’ in the very top box, next to the title.   

 

The Head of Internal Audit asked Members if they agreed with the scores of 4 provided at Appendix 1 as she felt that the Governance & Audit Committee operated very well and felt that the scores should be re-visited.

 

Each assessment score was considered, and it was agreed that the following areas should be changed to a score of 5:

 

·       Promoting the principles of good governance and their application to decision making

·       Supporting the establishment of arrangements for the governance of risk and for effective arrangements to manage risks

·       Supporting the quality of the internal audit activity, particularly by underpinning its organisational independence

·       Helping the authority to implement the values of good governance, including effective arrangements for countering fraud and corruption risks

 

All the remaining areas would remain at a score of 4.

13/22

Accounting Policies 2021-22 (Agenda item 13) pdf icon PDF 178 KB

Report by Alison Chubbock, Assistant Director of Finance & S151 Officer.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Alison Chubbock, the Assistant Director of Finance & S151 officer presented the report.

 

This was the annual report for the Council’s accounting policies in preparation for the review of the Statement of Accounts at the next meeting in June.

 

There had been very few changes this year, and essentially were exactly the same as reported in the previous year.  

 

There were some areas that had been highlighted in yellow, as had been in previous years, in respect of ‘useful lives’ where the Valuer’s report was still awaited but this would be updated based on their opinion.

 

As emphasised each year, there was potential for these policies to change very slightly when brought back to the Committee in June and if this was the case it would be reported as such; however, the only reason for this to happen would be if the Advisor suggested any areas on bad debt provision or valuations. It would not change the fundamental polices brought before Members at this meeting.

 

It was noted that the only area that could change was on the appeals provision for business rates.  An update would be provided to the Finance Team at the end of March.  

 

On page 100 of the agenda pack, under Investment Property, the Chairman felt that the suggestion was that the facilities embedded in PFI depreciated by 2% per annum over the 33.5 years and subsequently presumed that at the end of this period they would only be worth a third.  He asked if the land value was recorded separately.

 

Members were informed that land and buildings were recorded separately as land did not depreciate and had an endless life. PFI was still included on the Council’s balance sheet, but the buildings and land remained with the Council.  

 

RESOLVED that the accounting policies for2021-22 at appendix A of the report be approved.

14/22

Counter Fraud, Corruption & Bribery Policy, Whistleblowing Policy and Anti-Money Laundering Policy (Agenda item 14) pdf icon PDF 35 KB

Report by Alison Chubbock, Assistant Director of Finance & S151 Officer.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Assistant Director of Finance &S151 Officer presented the tri-annual report

 

The three policies were all linked and in the interim period they had been updated for small changes such as names and job titles and the report and associated appendices were the result of a full review which should be undertaken at least every three years.

 

How well these policies had worked was very hard to judge as many of the reasons for having such policies in place was for prevention rather than to provide an update after the event.

 

As it had been an unusual couple of years, the Whistle Blowing policy had been used quite often particularly when the Covid grants were in place.  Members of the public had contacted the Council under this particular Policy, but it had been found that these concerns mainly referred to the furlough scheme and had been signposted to HMRC.

 

There had been one fraudulent case reported to the Council in respect of the Covid grant scheme and this had been passed onto the Anglia Revenues & Benefits Partnership (ARP) to investigate but had since been deemed not to be fraudulent, and was also raised to the External Auditors as part of the end of year accounts..

 

The Money Laundering Policy (MLP) was mainly used by ARP in particular the Enforcement Agents, if they happened to be offered large sums of cash to pay off any debt, and this would be reported through this Policy accordingly.

 

Other areas that could have an impact on the MLP were explained.

 

The policies themselves were not particularly modern and should really be available online and therefore if approved, the Finance Team would work with the Digital Team to set up an on-line form for the public to use to improve the service.

 

Mr Fowler drew attention to page 122 of the agenda pack in respect of the Council’s complaints procedure and felt that it would be good idea to have a link, under the complaints procedure to the Whistle Blowing Policy, on the Council’s website to identify any distinction between the Policies.

 

Mr Fowler then drew attention to page 123 of the agenda pack where it stated that nay concerns relating to the Chief Officers listed should be reported to Ernst & Young, but he had noticed that Ernst & Young’s contact details had not been included.

 

The Assistant Director of Finance & S151 Officer agreed that a link could certainly be included, and the said contact details would be added.

 

Referring to page 115 of the agenda pack under implementation, the Chairman asked what evidence this Committee had that Service Managers were making sure that all staff were familiar with the content of these Policies.

 

Members were informed that this would form part of Services Managers training. These Policies, if approved, would also be added to the Intranet, and for clarity, such evidence would be reported to a future meeting.

 

Further questions were asked including a concern about the emphasis on financial fraud and possible missing  ...  view the full minutes text for item 14/22

15/22

Work Programme (Agenda item 15) pdf icon PDF 186 KB

A copy of the Committee’s work programme is attached.  The Committee is asked to consider whether any additions, deletions or amendments to the programme are required.

Minutes:

Revised copies of the Work Programme had been circulated prior to the meeting.

 

The following items were added to the Work Programme for the June meeting:

 

·       Internal Audit Progress Report

·       Internal Audit Follow up Report; and

·       Internal Audit Annual Audit Opinion 2021/22

 

 

16/22

Next Meeting (Agenda item 16)

To note the arrangements for the next meeting to be held on 23 June 2022 at 10am in the Anglia Room, the Conference Centre, Dereham.

Minutes:

The arrangements for the next meeting on Thursday, 23 June 2022 at 10am were noted.