Agenda and minutes

Audit Committee - Monday, 1st March, 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: ZOOM MEETING - Virtual Meeting. View directions

Contact: Kimberly Soane  Democratic Services Officer

Items
No. Item

AUD 51/20

Minutes

To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 30th November 2020 and published on the Council’s website.

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 30 November 2020 were agreed as a correct record.

AUD 52/20

Apologies for Absence

To receive apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were submitted by Cllr Michaela Wicks.  

AUD 53/20

Disclosure of Interests

To receive from Members, declarations of interests in relation to any items included on the Agenda for this meeting, in accordance with the Waverley Code of Local Government Conduct.

Minutes:

There were no disclosures of interest submitted in relation to items on the agenda.

AUD 54/20

Questions by Members of the Public

The Chairman to respond to any questions received from members of the public of which notice has been duly given in accordance with Procedure Rule 10.

Minutes:

There were none.

AUD 55/20

QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS

The Chairman to respond to any questions received from Members in accordance with Procedure Rule 11.

 

Minutes:

There were none.

PART I - RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE COUNCIL

There were no matters falling within this category.

PART II - MATTERS OF REPORT

The background papers relating to the following items are as specified in the reports included in the original agenda papers.

AUD 56/20

Annual Audit Letter pdf icon PDF 243 KB

To receive the Annual Audit Letter for Year ended 31 March 2020

Minutes:

Jon Roberts, Grant Thornton, introduced Paul Cuttle to the Committee and advised he would be the new engagement lead for Waverley.

 

The committee were advised that the Annual Audit Letter attached to the agenda was the last one they would receive as there was no longer a requirement to produce one.  It was outlined that the letter was a summary of the Audit Findings Document.

 

Jon Roberts highlighted that the fees position was confirmed at the end of the letter as it had changed due to Covid.

 

Issues raised by the members:

 

Q – Will fees reduce if Audit letter is no longer required to be produced?

A – No as it is being replaced by a different report.

 

Q – Can Grant Thornton indicate if Covid is going to have an impact on this years’ Audit?

A – Yes it is likely to have an impact as staff will have to do remote working for a while yet.  Covid has already been considered as part of the timetable for reporting.  Graeme Clark advised that Waverley would endeavour to work as closely to the timetable as possible and were looking at end of June/beginning of July to finalise.

 

Q – Are there any additional requirements needed regarding Covid Grants etc? 

A - There are no additional requirements for Grant Thornton but Waverley send regular reports back to government on what has been delivered. Paid out over £24m so far.

A – There is time available in Audit Plan to look at the grants.

 

Q – how is the certification of Housing Benefits going?

A – Well established, progressing and well resourced.  Should be finished in next few weeks.

 

Q – Regarding the value for money conclusion to the letter how have Waverley justified not using Furlough for staff and the overtime payments outlined?

A – The government discouraged public sector from using furlough and very few of our services had a reduced demand.  In fact demand increased in a number of services and in those areas with reduced demand staff were redeployed to process grants and ring vulnerable residents.

A-  The overtime payments mainly related  to Easter weekend working and were funded by Government through the grants schemes.

 

Q- The letter indicates a recruitment freeze but this is not the case as some recruitment was carried out. How was this justified?

A – It is true some posts were recruited to but there were strict constraints as to which posts were filled.

 

Q – The letter stated we had an exit strategy for each Commercial Property Investment.  Is this the case?

A – We do actively manage our investment properties and they are reviewed constantly and there is an exit strategy in place for all new aquisitions.

 

Q – Would it be useful for the Committee to understand where other Councils have fallen down with regards to property investments?

 

ACTION:  AGREED  that Grant Thornton would come back to a future meeting and run a session on Governance.

The Committee  ...  view the full minutes text for item AUD 56/20

AUD 57/20

Annual Governance Statement - Consideration of Potential Governance Issues. pdf icon PDF 389 KB

Minutes:

The Committee were asked to reviews last years’ AGS and consider what changes are required for the Annual Governance Statement for 2020/21.

 

The committee would welcome narrative on:

·         our response to Covid

·         governance appetite

·         Air Quality/Habitats Regulations in relation to planning reports as despite it being raised a number of times it is felt that we are not meeting our statutory obligations to include full environmental reports with the planning reports.  An update is required from the Head of Planning on the adoption and processes in place to ensure that planning committees are provided with reports on biodiversity, habitat directives and environmental reports supporting the relevant planning applications. 

 

ACTION: Head of Planning to speak with Chairman about the legal requirements and the practice at Waverley.

AUD 58/20

Accounting Policies pdf icon PDF 211 KB

The report provides an update on Waverley Accounting Policies in line with changes to the CIPFA Code of Practice relating to the preparation of the 2020/21 Financial Statements. The audit committee is charged with responsibility for oversight of financial reporting integrity and plays a pivotal role in helping to ensure that the critical accounting policies, judgments and estimates applied by management present a fair and accurate picture of the Council’s financial position.

 

Recommendation

 

It is recommended that the Audit Committee reviews and considers the adequacy of the Accounting Policies that underpin the preparation of the Financial Statements and notes that there are no proposed changes in accounting policy or changes in accounting standards to apply in the 2020/21 Financial Statements.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Peter Vickers, Head of Finance & Property, set out the current policies Waverley had that outline the principles to govern many areas of the business.  It was felt it was important for the Committee to review these policies regularly.

 

The Committee were advised that there were a number of proposed changes last year on standards which were then delayed till April 2022 so there have not been many changes this year.

 

Jon Roberts, Grant Thornton, advised that as indicated earlier in the meeting there has been some changes to processes but it was their opinion that no changes to policies were required.

 

The Committee noted the current policies, their adequacy in underpinning the preparation of the Financial Statements and asked that their comments were considered.

AUD 59/20

Proposed Internal Audit Plan for 2021-22 pdf icon PDF 118 KB

The Committee’s terms of reference include provision for the Committee to approve the proposed Internal Audit Plan.  This report presents the proposed Draft Internal Audit Plan for 2021-22 and the Committee is invited to comment and approve the Audit Plan.  The plan has been drawn up by the Internal Audit Manager through completing a risk assessment of the audit universe of the council’s activities including consultation with Senior Management Team.

 

The draft audit plan also contains those reviews that were deferred from 2020-21 audit plan identifiable by the inclusion of (C/F 2020-21) after their title.

 

Recommendation

 

It is recommended that the Audit Committee comments and approves the proposed Draft Internal Audit Plan for 2021-22 as attached in Annexe 1.

 

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Gail Beaton, Internal Audit Manager, outlined the Proposed Internal Audit plan for 2021-22 including those reviews that were deferred from 2020-21.

 

Highlighted for note was:

 

·         IT risk assessment was to completed in 2021-22, outcomes would direct reviews in the year.

·         The Horizon planning system would have a post implementation review.

·         The Property Terrier would have a review of its completeness to ensure it is up to date.

·         Fraud and Irregularities – NFI 2021-22 exercise includes COVID grants.

 

The committee questioned that there was nothing on wellbeing of staff in the Audit Plan.  They were assured this was being monitored through the Covid Response Group on a weekly basis.

 

Gail Beaton advised that the plan was flexible in order to accommodate changes over the next year.

 

It was highlighted the Corporate Strategy wording needed updating as it had changed slightly.

 

Officers were asked when the CIL audit would be re-instated? Graeme Clark advised this was a timely question as the CIL Advisory Board had recently met and would be looking at the bids which came in up to the end of January and would be preparing a report for the Executive.

 

The Committee APPROVED the Internal Audit Plan for 2021-22 and asked for their comments to be considered.

AUD 60/20

Progress on the implementation of Internal Audit Agreed Actions pdf icon PDF 483 KB

To inform the Audit Committee of Senior Management’s progress in implementing the recommendations raised by Internal Audit  following a review in their service areas. This report will enable the Committee to consider what action is required in respect of those that are overdue or appear likely to be implemented later than the target date.

 

Recommendation

 

It is recommended that the Committee considers the information contained and, following discussion at the Audit Committee meeting identifies any action it wishes to be taken.

Minutes:

Gail Beaton, Internal Audit Manager, outlined the progress on the implementation of the Internal Audit agreed actions.  She highlighted that a few of the actions had now been implemented. The Head of Planning and Economic Development had requested an extension of some of his actions on the Horizon software.

 

The Committee asked if an extension of one meeting was enough as it was appreciated bespoke systems are brittle and sometimes need more work to implement.

 

It was noted that there were actions for the Head of Finance & Property which were past the deadline and he was asked if an extension was needed on these? He advised only of a week or so as they were close to completion.

 

The Committee NOTED the information provided and AGREED to the extension for the Horizon Planning Systems action and a short extension to the Financial actions.

AUD 61/20

Review of the progress on the achievement of the 2020-21 Audit Plan pdf icon PDF 120 KB

The Committee’s Terms of Reference include provision for the Committee to approve, monitor and comment on the progress made in the achievement of the Internal Audit Plan.  An update on the current position of the internal audit reviews is attached.

 

Recommendation

 

It is recommended that the Committee notes the contents of the Internal Audit Progress report as attached.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Gail Beaton, Internal Audit Manager, outlined the report on progress on the achievement of the 2020-21 Audit Plan.  She advised that good progress had been made with the plan, with a number of processes nearing completion.

 

The Audit Committee NOTED the contents of the Internal Audit Plan 2020-21 progress report as attached in Annexe 1 and ENDORSED the changes to be made in the audit internal audit plan for 2020-21 to meet current priorities.

AUD 62/20

Fraud Investigation Summary pdf icon PDF 124 KB

The report provides an update to the Committee on the work being completed in investigating fraud, primarily focusing on Housing Tenancy Fraud.

 

Recommendation

 

It is recommended that the Audit Committee notes the success of the fraud investigation activity.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Gail Beaton, Internal Audit Manager, updated the committee on the current fraud investigation work. It had been a very busy year relating to right to buy properties.

 

She was asked if this work included Covid Support Grants and was advised it did not as this was reported separately.

 

The Audit Committee NOTED the success of the fraud investigation activity.

AUD 63/20

Audit Committee Recurrent Annual Work Programme pdf icon PDF 267 KB

The Committee’s annual recurrent work programme is attached.  The work programme details regular items, but other items can be submitted to each meeting on an ad hoc basis or at the request of the Committee.

 

Recommendation

 

The Audit Committee is invited to note its recurrent annual work programme.

Minutes:

The Committee were taken through the current annual work programme and advised of some potential timetable changes.

 

It was possible the Accounts and Annual Governance Statement will not be ready for the July meeting and may have to slip to the September meeting.  The officers were awaiting confirmation from Government as to whether this would be a permanent change in future years or just a temporary one for this year.

 

The Committee also expressed an interest in looking at the Corporate Risk Register and Insurance Reserves at a future meeting possibly as an informal member meeting.

 

The Audit Committee NOTED its recurrent annual work programme.

AUD 64/20

Exclusion of Press and Public

To consider the following recommendation on the motion of the Chairman:

 

Recommendation

 

That pursuant to Procedure Rule 20 and in accordance with Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following item(s) on the grounds that it is likely, in view of the nature of the business to be transacted or the nature of the proceedings, that if members of the public were present during the item(s), there would be disclosure to them of exempt information (as defined by Section 1001 of the Act) of the description specified in the appropriate paragraph(s) of the revised Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972 (to be identified at the meeting).

Minutes:

There were no items to discuss in exempt session so the Chairman closed the meeting.