The report of the Chief Officer Financial Services provides a source of assurance that the internal control environment is operating as intended through a summary of the Internal Audit activity for the period from March to May 2022. The report highlights the incidence of any significant control failings or weaknesses.
The report of the Chief Officer Financial Services provided a source of assurance that the internal control environment was operating as intended through a summary of the Internal Audit activity for the period from March to May 2022.
The Committee were provided with the following information:
· Internal Audit sit independently within the organisation with no responsibility for the delivery of services in each of the Directorates. This allows the team to review across the whole organisation the systems and processes are working effectively. It was noted that the Audit Plan had been approved by the Committee at the March 2022 meeting.
· Members’ attention was drawn to Appendix A which detailed the work undertaken. Section 4 was highlighted as some of the most interesting information for Members to focus on and was a summary of reports issued in the reporting period. It was noted that 11 reports had been issued. Attention was drawn to areas where improvement was required which included the Primary School Audit. It also highlighted some of the follow up reviews which had taken place to provide assurance on the continual improvements being made.
· Other Audit work focussed on areas of work that the team were actively involved in at a point in time. These included projects, programmes and project boards. It was the view of the service that it was better to be part of the ongoing process to provide advice and guidance.
· Section 10 provided the performance of the Internal Audit. One of the key measures was the satisfaction survey which is issued at the end of each audit report. It was noted that great value was place on this area of performance and in this period the responses were particularly high which reflected well on the service. It was acknowledged that where performance is low this is highlighted to Members and lessons learnt for improvements. The service had received a 70% response rate, which showed that there was a requirement for improvement to this. Although more responses had been received since the report had been produced.
· The quality assurance improvement report which shows the work covered over the course of the year which showed how the service planned to enhance and improve the work that they do. One of the areas was the Recommendation Tracker which has been rolled out across the organisation and will be included in future reports.
In response to questions the Committee were provided with the following information:
- Payments to providers of home care – Members were informed there has been some significant staffing and structure changes in this area which had held up some of the measures that the service needed to take forward. With the staffing, structure and pandemic there had been delays in progressing the formal contract and this relates specifically to the area of mental health care. In the meantime, documentation was either inconsistent or there was a lack of documentation to support the agreement of the rates. Members were advised that the recommendation tracker would aid in the follow up on improvements recommended in this area.
- £150 Energy Support Scheme – There were 320,000 households which were eligible for energy support in bands A-D. All those who pay by direct debit have received their payment all those who applied through the application form online, the Council is required to do checks to ensure there are no fraudulent claims. A number of the applications were flagged by the ‘Spotlight system’ and checks had to be made to mitigate this. Some had received payment through BACs after confirming that the person on the form is liable for the council tax. It was noted that some have had post office vouchers issued as the Council could not gain assurance regarding the bank account, therefore the voucher was sent to the household. It was noted that 80,000 had not applied who are eligible. Therefore, the Council have used social media to encourage everyone to apply. The 24th June was the last day for people to apply for the payment. For those that have applied, and it is not flagged on the ‘Spotlight system’ they would receive the payment via BAC’s and where flagged a post officer voucher would be sent to the household. A report will be run to see where payments have not been made and their council tax accounts would be credited, and the council tax bills reissued. It was noted that funding had been provided for administering this. Members were advised that the ‘Spotlight system’ was a government system run through the Cabinet Office.
- Actual vs Planned Days of Audit – In relation to the additional days allocated to Fraud and Corruption it was explained that this was due to the additional work involved with the Covid Grants Scheme which had been a bigger job than anticipated, along with a significant piece of work on Employee Outside Interests.
- Framework Contracts – The service looks at aspects wider then finance to ensure arrangements for contracts are managed so the Council is not only getting value for money but also the services that are required.
- Transformation Programme and Budget Review Group – Officers offered to provide more detailed information to Members outside the meeting.
- Budget Action Plans – These are part of the budget setting process which is monitored and reported to Executive Board on a monthly basis then go to Scrutiny Boards.
- Customer Satisfaction Questionnaires – The service is always looking to improve the rate of responses to the requests for feedback from services. A briefing note will be sent to the Committee providing information on services who have not responded in the recent period and outlining the steps that will be taken to improve the response rate further, including the setting of deadlines.
- Recommendation Tracker – The tracker will be used for high and medium priority recommendations. Reminders are sent to Directorates prompting the need to update the trackers. Follow up audits are taken where limited or no assurance has been provided, but there needs to be consideration of the right stage to re-assess the service. Timescales for implementation of recommendations are agreed with the service at the point of the report, and efforts are also made to agree the timescale for any follow up audits due.
- Independence of Internal Audit – Internal Audit are themselves assessed as part of the Public Sector Internal Audit and Standards and this covers the independence of the service. The last assessment had taken place in December 2021 which they had passed and demonstrated independence.
- Resources – Any changes to the Audit Plan are reported to the Committee. The service is currently going through a review, assessing the type of work to be undertaken and the resources required, to ensure that the service remains fit for purpose. The Committee will be informed of the changes
In relation to a point posed by Cllr Illingworth in relation to planning matters, it was suggested by the Chair that this issue should be taken up with the Chief Planning Officer and the relevant Executive Member.
RESOLVED – To:
a) Receive the Internal Audit Report covering the period from March to May 2022 and note the work undertaken by Internal Audit during this period covered by the report.
b) Note that there have been no limitations relating in scope and nothing has arisen to compromise the independence of Internal Audit during the reporting period
c) Receive the report providing information relating to the Monitoring of Urgent Decisions covering this period March to May 2022