Status of Internal Audit Recommendations (year end) (Agenda item 10)
Report by Emma Hodds, Internal Audit Consortium Manager.
The Internal Audit Consortium Manager presented the report and provided Members with a detailed update on the year end position.
Internal Audit had been aware that the Committee had not been happy with the progress made by management implementing agreed recommendations at the meeting held in December 2013. Page 51 of the report highlighted the progress made throughout the year for implementing the recommendations of which there were 66.7% outstanding.
Section 2.3 of the report (page 52, also attached at Appendix 2) detailed the high priority recommendations which were outstanding from systems audits. An appendix would usually be attached detailing these outstanding recommendations from IT audits; however, there were currently none to report.
Section 2.10 of the report analysed the high priority recommendations in more detail and out of the seven reported as outstanding in February 2014, two of these had now been implemented: Internet and Email (BRK/12/17) concluded that all recommendations within this audit had now been closed and network Infrastructure and Security (BRK/13/11) had also been closed.
Of the five still outstanding, Asset Management (BRK/11/06), in relation to street lighting, had since been discussed with management and had been re-worded to more accurately reflect the current situation and would be monitored to a satisfactory conclusion even though this could take further time to resolve.
In relation to procurement (BRK/13/02) there were three high priority recommendations that were currently outstanding, with a further two medium and one low priority recommendation that required attention. In relation to procurement knowledge, management response had indicated that this was being considered within the structural review currently being undertaken. In the interim, professional procurement advice was being sought from Procurement Lincolnshire.
Development Control (BRK/14/03) a limited assurance had been awarded on conclusion of this review with six recommendations being raised (I high, 4 medium and 1 low), all of which remained outstanding. The high recommendation related to Building Control.
A further high priority recommendation that had been noted that was still outstanding was brought to the Committee’s attention in relation to Homelessness and Housing Strategy (BRK/14/06). This recommendation related to the nature of service delivery performance information and the reporting of this on a monthly basis. Management responses had indicated that the current system supplier might not be continuing beyond the end of the contract, June 2014, therefore, the recommendation had been put on hold for the time being whilst the service considered its options.
The Chairman asked who was responsible for monitoring these audit recommendations as he felt that this should be the responsibility of the Portfolio Holders. Members’ attention was drawn to page 55 of the report where it stated that Procurement Knowledge was the responsibility of Vicky Thomson. Councillor Jolly advised that the person in question had forwarded this concern to the relevant officers. She explained that the names listed did not necessarily mean that that person was dealing with it as most of the time the subject would be passed down to someone else and therefore the line of responsibility could be blurred and she had concerns how to pin this down. Members were informed that recruitment to procurement would happen in the next few months but the responsibility was an issue. Touching on the responsibility issues, the Internal Audit Consortium Manager said that she did ensure that the correct responsible officer was made aware and that a recommendation would not be forced onto just anyone. It was about getting the mechanism in place to ensure that the right person was assigned. Mr Stevens felt that this was a management issue. The Assistant Director of Finance explained that the performance system had gone through a number of iterations and changes over the past two years but expected the reporting and processes to settle down. The Chairman felt that these teething problems should not be happening anymore and should be solved through the Shared Management Team. Councillor Nunn felt that it was a case of ownership and should be followed up with the Portfolio Holder. Councillor Nairn reminded Members of the last meeting when it had been noticed that procurement had been pulled by the Corporate Management Team as they felt it was not a risk. Councillor Jolly pointed out that internal audit was separate from performance and had not changed, neither had the implementation of high priority items; however, the unaddressed items still carried on. The Chairman felt that it was about how to manage the Managers. On the subject of procurement, Mr Ludlow had noted that some mitigation had been put in place and that overall the percentage of high priority items overdue had improved since last year; however, in his opinion the Council was still in a quite poor position. It seemed as if the Council still had a big issue about just moving a date on when a date had been past; in other words, just rolled on to another quarter. He felt that doing it this way was wrong and highlighted the glass bottle bank as an example of which the date for implementation was in a few days time. The Internal Audit Consortium Manager explained that she had asked a member of the Mazars Team that realistic revised deadline dates were required. Her understanding had been that a revised deadline date was needed to flag up these issues and there had been many revised dates supplied by management. Mr Stevens felt that there should be an assessment carried out to ensure that the revised dates were reasonable. Councillor Nunn thought that this needed to be included on an Executive Member report so it was flagged up to the Members when a date should be rolled forward. He did not have a problem with them being on the list but a reason was needed for the date to be moved so that Members could focus on the ones that were not being monitored. Councillor Jolly asked if this should be the Manager, or the Corporate Management Team as a whole or the Portfolio Holder. The Chairman felt that these matters should rest with the Portfolio Holder as the Managers were responsible to the Portfolio Holders. Councillor Nunn said that it was the Managers responsibility for delivery. Councillor Jolly said that this issue had been very challenging and had not changed for many years. The Chairman knew that anytime anything changed there were always ‘teething’ problems and ‘cracks’ appeared in the process; however, he felt that after two years this should have been dealt with and the ‘cracks’ needed to be sorted. Mr Ludlow said that perhaps what was missing was the ability to hold someone to account and what the consequences would be when constantly rolling high priority recommendations forward. Mr Stevens pointed out that it used to be much better when the Council had Performance Clinics as it was a much stricter regime and Members were in control of Officers. The Chairman felt that it was not as simple as that. Councillor Nunn asked how these concerns were passed on as he felt that the Chairman should confer with the Chief Executive. Members were informed that such concerns would be noted in the Minutes and through Councillor Ellen Jolly as part of her Portfolio responsibilities. Councillor Jolly said that the process of development of performance had not been resolved.
RESOLVED that the contents of the report be noted and the Committee’s concerns be flagged up with the Chief Executive.
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