The Audit Manager led Members through the internal audit report to 31 December 2019, that gave details of audit matters and any emerging issues, not only in relation to audit but risk management and corporate governance.
At the time of writing, Internal Audit was still on target to complete all of the Governance Audits by 31 March 2020, as well as most of the other planned work for 2019/20. However, as indicated at the last report, a few audits had been postponed until 2020/21 due to various reasons beyond the team’s control.
The report gave details of the five audits completed in the quarter (Housing Allocations, Debtors, Community Infrastructure Levy, Council Tax and Main Accounting) all had been given good or substantial assurance on the overall governance arrangements.
Under the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015, ultimate responsibility for maintaining a sound system of internal control rested with the Council, but this had been delegated to the Assistant Director Resources (Section 151 officer). The assessment of the control environment was made by reviewing the recommendations made in Internal Audit reports and by the production of the Annual Governance Statement (AGS) (see Minute AS19/51 below). Two areas had been identified for inclusion in the AGS by the Audit Manager, because the internal control environment had not been satisfactory, namely Property Investment and U4BW ERP System Administration. Other issues that may have had an impact on the Council included:
• U4BW ERP Implementation Project: originally due to complete in April 2018, but was still ongoing. Issues had been experienced with implementing the Human Resources and Self Service modules; work was ongoing to rectify this. It was anticipated that the system would go live in April 2020.
• Risk Management: the document had not been regularly updated therefore there was a requirement for greater corporate oversight of risk management activity.
• Major Projects: the Council would be undertaking and delivering a number of high profile projects across the district. Not all staff had project management experience.
• Staff Morale: it was anticipated that the voluntary redundancies would place additional pressure on remaining staff and that low morale increased the risk of staff turnover, with the loss of knowledge and experience.
Taking all of the factors highlighted in the report and the quarterly reports into account, the draft Internal Audit assessment of the Council’s framework of governance, risk management and control was adequate and effective.
Members were requested to approve the revised Internal Audit Charter which was appended to the report at Appendix D, last updated in 2017. Members were advised that paragraph 24 of the Charter (Audit Strategy and Workplan) would need to be reviewed and updated in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, but approval was sought that the document be approved in its current form. Members were happy to approve this recommendation and noted that a review would take place of the lessons learnt in due course.
Members had the opportunity to ask questions and the following points were noted:
• an offer of employment had been made and verbally accepted for a Deputy Systems Administrator for the Unit 4 Enterprise Resource Planning system;
• the annual review of the risk register was to be discussed later on the agenda and priorities had shifted in light of the Covid-19 pandemic;
• staff morale was being addressed through regular meetings with UNISON Staffside and regular monitoring and assistance with a new way of working in the current climate. A staff survey was due to be circulated to seek views on what adaptions could be considered. Any staffing issues would be taken up through the Licensing and General Purposes Committee;
• an offer of employment had been offered and accepted for a new CIL Officer, who was due to start in the next couple of weeks;
• Car Park Income had been given a limited assurance rating due to issues with parking penalties at Camber Western car park. The contract has since ended; and
• Property Investment had been given a limited assurance rating due to teething problems, but the Audit Manager was not unduly concerned.
1) the Internal Audit report to 31 December 2019 (including the Audit Manager’s draft overall assessment of the Council’s internal control systems and draft opinion on the control environment) be noted; and
2) the revised Internal Audit Charter at Appendix D to the report, be approved.