The Audit Findings Report, produced by Grant Thornton, summarises the key findings arising from the work they have carried out at Waverley Borough Council for the year ended 31 March 2020.
The report provides a commentary on the results of Grant Thornton’s work to the Council and its external stakeholders, and highlights issues they wish to draw to the attention of the public.
It is recommended that the Audit Committee receives and notes the Audit Findings Report 2019/20.
23.1 Jon Roberts, Grant Thornton, introduced the Audit Findings Report, which had been prepared in accordance with reporting responsibilities. It was a comprehensive report, but also incomplete; the external audit was being carried out remotely but this did mean the process was taking longer than usual. The report listed the areas where work was continuing, and that list had already reduced since the report was written. Mr Roberts confirmed that there were no issues identified that would impact on the General Fund position, and he was proposing an unqualified conclusion on value for money, going concern, and around the annual governance statement.
23.2 There were two main areas that were more difficult to resolve – pensions, and property valuations. The pensions issue was partially dependent on the progress of the Surrey Pension Fund audit, and also a review of further information requested from the actuary. With regard to the property valuations, this was a bigger issue and whilst it did not impact on the General Fund it was taking longer to resolve despite the strong working arrangements with the Finance team.
23.3 Mark Bartlett, Audit Manager, took the Committee through the Audit Findings report in detail, including the commentary on the pension fund valuation and property valuations. He confirmed that there were no matters of concern to raise with the Committee including in relation to value for money and governance arrangements for commercial property investment. The Committee noted that some of the issues on property valuations were the same as seen last year, and Graeme Clark gave an assurance that there was a full commitment to put measures in place to address the concerns for the future.
23.4 The Committee noted that there was probably another three weeks needed to complete the outstanding issues in the audit. They could either await receipt of the final report before approving the Statement of Accounts which would require an additional committee meeting; or, give a delegation to the S151 officer and Chairman to review the final Audit Findings Report and if satisfactory, approve the Statement of Accounts.
23.5 Cllr Hyman had registered to speak on this matter and asked the auditors the extent to which they independently assessed matters in relation to laws and regulations including following up on recent judgements. Also, on page 19 of the Report, had any checks been made of how contractors had used the furlough scheme. Mr Roberts responded that they sought management assurances on compliance with laws and regulations through meetings with Statutory Officers. And, contractor use of the furlough scheme was outside the scope of the audit of Waverley’s accounts.
23.6 Graeme Clark advised the Committee that most contractors had continued to provide a full service to the council, although Places Leisure had been severely affected at their leisure centre operations nationwide. The Council had paid overtime to staff only for specific Covid response purposes, and this had been covered by the Covid support grant. Non-essential recruitment had been stopped, and this would be clarified in the report.
23.7 The Committee thanked the auditors for their presentation of the Audit Findings Report for 2019/20, which was noted, and agreed to add a review of the Action Plan (Appendix A) to the Action Log for March 2021 to check on progress before the start of the next external audit cycle.
· Add Review of Action Plan (Appendix A) to Action Log for March 2021, to check on progress before start of next external audit cycle.