Agenda and minutes

Audit and Governance Committee - Friday 11 October 2019 10.00 am

Venue: Cabinet Suite - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions

Contact: Andrea griffiths 

Items
No. Item

36.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 131 KB

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on the 26th July 2019.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

 All matters arising had been dealt with and communicated to members of the committee. 

 

A request was made to amend item 24, second paragraph in relation to the McCloud ruling being adjusted to £16.7m, due to the updated reporting calculation.  

 

Resolved

 

That subject to the amendment the minutes of the meeting held on the 26th July 2019 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairperson.   

37.

Grant Thornton Annual Audit Letter pdf icon PDF 450 KB

The Committee is asked to note the report. 

Minutes:

Peter Barber, Grant Thornton presented the report, which informed the Committee of the audit work to be undertaken for the 2019/20 financial year for Gloucestershire County Council and the fee involved.

 

Member’s attention was drawn to the Executive Summary on Page 19 & 20 of the report.  It was explained that Grant Thornton was unable to conclude on the Value for Money arrangements until the objection had been finalised.   It was noted that there was an ongoing legal challenge and the outcome could impact Grant Thornton’s determination of the objection. 

 

In relation to Children’s Services, it was noted that Grant Thornton had concluded that the Council did not manage this risk effectively and did not make appropriate use of performance and service quality information to support informed decision making and performance management.  Mr Barber explained the process and how the information contributed to the overall view. 

 

Mr Barber explained that if an Ofsted Inspection took place in due course, then the narrative would be supplemented and the bold conclusion would only be amended if Ofsted amended GCC’s rating.  Members appreciated there was a problem and that it inevitably take time to fix and when the service was effectively managed the report would be amended accordingly.  

 

Resolved

 

That the report be noted.   

38.

Grant Thornton External Audit Progress Report pdf icon PDF 555 KB

The Committee is asked to note the report. 

Minutes:

Peter Barber, Engagement Lead, Grant Thornton presented the report.  The report detailed the progress Grant Thornton had made in delivering their responsibilities as the external auditors.  Accounting, audit issues and emerging issues would be flagged up as part of the regular report. 

 

Members were referred to page 38 of the report which detailed the progress at September 2019.  Mr Barber once again referred to the objection and the ongoing legal action. 

 

A member urged fellow Councillors to read the Local Government Association report on ‘Profit with a Purpose’, as the report aimed to deliver social vales through commercial activity.    The report could be viewed via https://www.local.gov.uk/profit-purpose-delivering-social-value-through-commercial-activity  

 

Resolved

 

That the report be noted.     

39.

Internal Audit Report & Action Plan - GFRS pdf icon PDF 50 KB

The Committee is asked to consider the actions taken to address the recommendations made and progress to date

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair welcomed Wayne Bowcock, Chief Fire Officer (CFO), Cllr Dave Norman, Cabinet Member and Jon McGinty (Commissioning Director) to the meeting. 

 

Theresa Mortimer, Chief Internal Auditor (CIA) explained the purpose of the report was to provide independent assurance to the Committee that the Internal Audit recommendations made in relation to the audit reviews emanating from the independent investigation of GFRS, had been / were being addressed.  Members were advised that Pages 51 to 64 provided a high level summary of all activity progress undertaken to date. The CIA stated that the three audit reports presented complete the initial suite of internal audit reviews (18 in total).  

 

Members were referred to the GRFS Syrian Refugee Report conclusions as detailed on page 72 of the report.  The Committee were advised that only limited assurance could be provided on the control environment as a result of the findings. 

 

The CFO advised the Committee in relation to the Syrian Refugee grant that he acknowledged that there were some improvement actions identified that would be addressed but it should not cloud the good work the service had achieved.  As over 270 refugee families had been resettled and the Home Office was very pleased with GFRS performance and handling of the situation. 

 

The GFRS Fleet Management, pool cars and fuel cards audit report and expenses audit report contained a great level of detail and were not deemed to be easy reading.  It was explained that these were historic practices and processes in place at the time and many of the issues arose due to the lack of GFRS policy.  The CIA explained that the audit findings were based on facts and operational practices. 

 

One member remarked that the Syrian Refugee programme was deemed a success as the Committee had not heard about it and assurance could be taken in that it was a positive area of work.  However, the member continued to raise concerns that there were two major service breakdowns within the Authority, namely Children’s Service and GFRS.  He suggested that it was necessary to find out what the key issues were and to drill down in order to establish what went wrong, to avoid similar re-occurrence. 

 

The CIA advised the Committee that it was essential to reflect and identify improvements or any lessons learned when things go wrong. The CIA advised that there was collective ownership of corporate learning and that Monitoring Officer,  would be able to advise on this wider corporate learning.   

 

In respect of Internal Audit, the CIA reaffirmed that Internal Audit forms part of the three lines of defence / assurance model, internal audit being the third line i.e. providing independent assurance that the key material risks facing the Council are being adequately managed / controlled. Management (as the first line) responsible for identifying, owning and managing risk and corporate risk compliance functions as the second line.

 

Internal Audit therefore bases assurance activity on risk, as required by the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (PSIAS) and the planning process involves  ...  view the full minutes text for item 39.

40.

Internal Audit Activity Progress Report 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 49 KB

The Committee is asked to consider the Officer recommendations.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Theresa Mortimer, CIA, presented the report in detail.  The purpose of the report was to inform members of the progress of the internal audit activity in relation to the 2019/2020 Internal Audit Plan, including the opinions provided on risk and control.

 

The Committee welcomed the report which showed a graphical summary of the opinions provided to date on the effectiveness of risk identification and control.  It was reported that there was an overall satisfactory and above rating of 62% on control and 77% on risk.  The CIA explained that the GFRS audits significantly contributed to the increase on the opinions on the control environment (38%).

 

It was noted that all 60 recommendations made by Internal Audit to improve the control environment during this period had been accepted by management.

 

Members’ attention was drawn to those audits undertaken during the period July – September 2019, of which five limited assurance opinions on control had been provided during this period relating to Approval of Payments to Agency Staff limited assurance follow up, Alternative Provision Schools – Stroud and Cotswold, GFRS HR and Payroll – Expenses and service benefits, GFRS Fleet management – use of pool cars, personal and leased cars and fuel schemes and GFRS Syrian Refugee Grant.  The Committee were reminded that the GFRS activity has been reported in the previous agenda item. 

 

The CIA referred to the management assurance framework on page 136 as agreed with the Director of Education, to provide the Committee with the assurance that schools were or had addressed Internal Audit recommendations.   The Director of Education will attend the Audit and Governance Committee on an annual basis commencing July 2020.

 

It was suggested that the local member should be advised by internal audit of any issues relating to schools within their wards, the CIA explained that the CIA reports functionally to the Audit and Governance Committee to maintain independence, this means that all outcomes are initially reported to the committee. However, the Audit and Governance Committee have the powers to provide details of issues / concerns they feel relevance to Cabinet Members. These issues can then be formally referred by the Committee at their meetings. 

 

The CIA referred to the Approval of Payments to Agency staff audit where a limited assurance opinion was provided. The CIA advised members that the Director of People had provided data to Internal Audit on the 11th October 2019 to show that the recent work they had undertaken has significantly improved as the sign off rate has increased to 86% of agency timesheet i.e. down to 14% auto-approved. The decision on the new agency contract is going to Cabinet in December and the specification for the new system will not allow auto-approval so if managers do not sign off agency timesheets the worker will not get paid.

 

Based on the above, the committee agreed that they would not require physical management attendance to the next committee meeting and would wait for the outcome of the Internal Audit follow up review of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 40.

41.

Proposed refreshed Audit and Governance Committee's Terms of Reference pdf icon PDF 211 KB

The Committee is asked to endorse the refreshed Terms of Reference.

Minutes:

Theresa Mortimer, CIA explained the proposed refreshed Audit and Governance Committee’s Terms of Reference reflected the revised Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) guidance on the function and operation of audit committees; “Audit Committees in Local Authorities and Police, 2018 edition”.  Members were advised that there were no fundamental changes to the terms of reference with the exception of consideration to appoint an independent member to the committee. 

 

Members questioned the independence of the independent person, it was suggested that recruitment to these positions were difficult and perhaps someone from a different Local Government Authority might be interested. 

 

In terms of training, it was explained that members were offered numerous Audit, finance and Governance training sessions throughout the year.  It was also agreed that the training element should be specifically referenced with the committee’s Terms of Reference.  At this point, the CIA proposed a partner training event with the other shared service audit committee members in order to share good practices.  The Committee welcomed this approach. 

 

Resolved

 

That the Committee endorsed the refreshed Terms of Reference as set out in Appendix 2, subject to the inclusion of training.

 

The Committee recommended the Terms of Reference be presented to the Constitution Committee for formal approval and inclusion within the Council’s Constitution.

42.

Proposed Recruitment Pack for Independent Member pdf icon PDF 59 KB

That the proposed recruitment pack be recommended to the

Constitution Committee on 14th October 2019 for approval.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The CIA presented the report in detail and advised the Committee that CIPFA had produced revised guidance on the function and operation of audit committees.  As such the Committee had participated in a workshop on 17th May 2019 to enable members of the Committee to undertake a self assessment of their effectiveness against the good practice principles published within this guidance.

 

Members were reminded that the Committee approved the action plan resulting from the effectiveness review, including the appointment of an independent member, at its meeting on 26th July 2019. 

 

During the discussion, some members felt that the Committee should not be restricted in an appointment and the Committee should be best placed to appoint the most suitable person.  The Monitoring Officer explained he would discuss the disqualifications for appointment (Appendix 2) further in consultation with the CIA and Legal Services, and make the appropriate amendments, prior to being submitted to the Constitution Committee for approval. 

 

Resolved

 

That the Monitoring Officer  would discuss the disqualifications for appointment appendix further in consultation with the CIA and Legal Services, prior to being to submitted to the Constitution Committee for approval. 

 

That the report be noted. 

43.

Treasury mid year report pdf icon PDF 433 KB

The Committee is asked to note the report.

Minutes:

 Paul Blacker, Finance Director explained that the update report had been produced in accordance with the CIPFA Code of Practice for Treasury Management in Public Services which required an update report to be produced to inform members about the Treasury Management activities for 2019/20 Financial Year to date.

 

The Treasury Management Update Report gave the position as at the end of August 2019.  Under the Code there was a requirement that members were presented with at least three reports during the year, and therefore this report together with the strategy and annual report met this requirement.

 

During the discussion it noted that the PWLB figures needed refreshing, officers agreed to amend the figures.   

 

Resolved

 

The Treasury Management update report was duly noted. 

44.

Internal Audit Limited Assurance Reports pdf icon PDF 108 KB

Procurement of short term transport arrangements for social care.

Minutes:

Phil Williams, Lead Commissioner for Community and Infrastructure presented the report.  He proceeded to explain that the Integrated Transport Unit (ITU) operated a Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) for procuring ad-hoc transport for use by vulnerable adults and children. Social workers wishing to procure transport arrangements (periods for less than two weeks) and to be arranged at short notice could commission this via Staffnet/Taxis. If the requirements were to continue beyond two weeks the officer commissioning the service should then complete a more detailed request form to enable the ITU to make the arrangements which were usually procured at a reduced rate due to the increased security of work to the operator and the safeguarding controls relating to approved transport providers.

 

Members were informed that children and vulnerable adults were now being transported in a safe and compliant manner.  In response to a question, members noted that school transport was provided in accordance with Council’s Home to School Transport Policy. 

 

In response to a question, it was noted that issues in the past had occurred due to the high turnover of social workers and the lack of staff training.  The Lead Commissioner explained that further training was being provided to staff and if transport was being procured outside of the process the Integrated Transport Unit (ITU) would look at the individual cases in more detail, as there were some emergency situations which occurred and required transport.  It was explained that there was a list of emergency service providers that Social Workers could use. 

 

Members questioned the issue of ID badges, the Lead Commissioner explained that ITU undertook on the spot inspections on contractors, had proactive meetings with schools and ensured that drivers were DBS checked.  If there were any evidence of badges being incorrectly used then they would be removed. 

 

The CIA explained that Internal Audit would complete a follow up audit in due course. 

 

Resolved

 

That the report be noted. 

 

45.

Local Government Ombudsman's Annual Review Letter 2019 pdf icon PDF 74 KB

To note the Local Government Ombudsman’s Annual Review Letter 2018/19.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

 Rob Ayliffe, Monitoring Officer presented the report.  The report informed the Committee of the Council’s arrangements for handling complaints and investigations by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO).  The Committee noted that in 2018/19 the LGO received 67 complaints about the County Council, 11 of which were upheld.

 

The Monitoring Officer advised the Committee that he had met with Statutory Officers and Legal to discuss the issues in detail and they were actively working to develop a more consistent approach, in order to report to the appropriate Scrutiny Committee. 

 

The Director of Corporate Resources explained that the LGO complaints were an active part of the process and the Authority needed to consider the element of the complaint in order to be clearer as to what information is provided in the future. 

 

It was noted that both complaints and compliments were welcome, as it gave modern organisations a broad overview and helped to improve its processes. 

 

Resolved

 

That the Committee noted the Local Government Ombudsman Annual Review Letter.   

 

46.

Member Code of Conduct Annual Report pdf icon PDF 105 KB

The Committee is asked to note the report and to indicate any areas for development.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

 The Monitoring Officer presented the report which reminded the Committee of the statutory arrangements governing the conduct of elected members.  It was noted that the Council had two Independent Persons who assisted the Monitoring Officer when allegations were made.  It was reported there had been no reason to convene the Hearings Panel in 2018/19. 

 

Resolved

 

That the report be noted.