Agenda item

Internal Audit Interim Report 2019/20


The Head of Audit Partnership introduced his report summarising the progress made so far towards delivering the 2019/20 Audit and Assurance Plan approved by the Committee in March 2019.


In introducing the report, the Head of Audit Partnership advised the Committee that:


·  The Internal Audit team had continued to work with full independence and had not been subject to undue pressure by Members or Officers.


·  There continued to be a good response to recommendations arising from audit reviews and management was accepting of issues raised.


·  In terms of resource requirements, three members of the team had moved on to other Internal Audit Services in Kent, but with the links made with contractors elsewhere, new recruits to the team and people returning from maternity leave, it was considered that there was sufficient resource to deliver the 2019/20 Audit and Assurance Plan.


·  Since the last report to the Committee in July 2019, five assurance rated reports had been issued and they all had a Sound rating which was a positive assurance rating, indicative of controls working well. 


·  Four high priority actions had been deferred beyond their originally agreed date, but the Internal Audit team was satisfied in all of these cases that the Officers were on top of the issues as they develop and looking forward to full implementation in due course.


·  The report also covered other Audit Service work to provide assurance across the authority including risk management and counter fraud (investigations, whistleblowing and the National Fraud Initiative).


·  With the agreement of the Council’s External Auditor, the Internal Audit team had taken on a significant proportion of the testing required in connection with the certification of the Council’s annual Housing Benefit Subsidy claim saving the Council around £8k.  It was anticipated that the deadline for completion of the work would be met.


·  The Internal Audit Service was required to undergo an external quality assessment at least every five years.  The Audit Partnership’s most recent such assessment was by the Institute of Internal Auditors in the spring of 2015.  The aim was to put this work out to tender by the end of November with a view to reporting the results back to the Committee in the spring/summer of 2020 depending on the timelines of the successful tenderer.  In the meantime, it was his view based on self-assessments that the Internal Audit Service continued to work in full conformance with the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards.


In response to questions by Members, the Head of Audit Partnership advised the Committee that:


·  To achieve a Strong assurance rating, controls within the service needed to be well designed and operating as intended, exposing the service to no uncontrolled risk.  There would also often be elements of good practice or value for money efficiencies that might be instructive to other authorities.  Audit reports with this rating would have few, if any recommendations.  A Sound assurance rating was a good one reflecting a service that was working well and, in an organisation looking to manage its limited resources, it was a good ambition to aim for.


·  The Internal Audit Service last looked at contract management in the autumn of 2018 and the focus now was on implementing the recommendations arising from the review.  Contract management, like all areas of the Council’s business, remained in the Audit Universe and would be in the running for a full review in 2020/21 because at that point the actions would have been taken and the improvements embedded to an extent that a full review would see them.


·  One of the advantages of working in a four way partnership was that issues of resilience were easier to manage with access to a level of experience and resources beyond that of a single local authority Internal Audit Service.  It could be argued that the independence of Internal Audit was more assured in a partnership arrangement.


During the discussion on this item, the Head of Audit Partnership updated Members on the approach to dealing with allegations, including potentially malicious accusations, under the Council’s Counter Fraud Policy.


RESOLVED:  That the progress made so far towards delivering the 2019/20 Audit and Assurance Plan be noted.



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