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Agenda item

Annual Internal Audit Report & Opinion 2019/20

Minutes:

The Head of Audit Partnership introduced the Annual Internal Audit Report and Opinion 2019/20.  In accordance with the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (the Standards), the report included:

 

·  The annual opinion of the Head of Audit Partnership on the overall adequacy and effectiveness of the Council’s internal control, governance and risk management;

·  A summary of the work completed by Mid-Kent Audit that supported the opinion; and

·  A statement on conformance with the Standards.

 

It was noted that:

 

·  The Head of Audit Partnership was satisfied from the audit work completed that the Council could place assurance on the system of control in operation during 2019/20; that the corporate governance framework complied in all significant respects with the best practice guidance issued by CIPFA/SOLACE; and that the Council’s risk management processes were effective. 

 

·  The Head of Audit Partnership had reached his conclusions independently and without any undue pressure from Officers or Members.

 

·  The report also included details of the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the delivery of the 2019/20 Audit Plan and the action taken to conclude the Plan sufficiently to support the Head of Audit Partnership’s opinion; the need to update the 2020/21 Audit Plan to reflect significant changes to the Council’s risks and priorities due to COVID-19, the redeployment of staff towards the emergency response and the impact of holding a post vacant whilst the partner authorities consider their longer term resource positions; and the full report of CIPFA’s External Quality Assessor confirming that the service continued to Fully Conform to Public Sector Internal Audit Standards.

 

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

 

·  Planning Enforcement had received a “weak” assurance rating and the agreed actions would be followed up in September.  In the meantime, he would circulate the final report together with a short note on the actions taken to address the issues.

 

·  The Collaboration Agreement had expired but a draft replacement Collaboration Agreement was being considered and he had been reassured by Members and Officers across the four Authorities that their commitment to the continuation of the Internal Audit Partnership remained strong.

 

·  Health and Safety had received a “weak” assurance rating and the agreed actions would be followed up in September, including improving performance in terms of completion of mandatory health and safety training modules.

 

·  Whilst members of the Internal Audit team had been redeployed across the four Partner Authorities in response to the COVID-19 emergency, he could reassure Members that there was never a point during the process where the Internal Audit Service was completely vacated and that people were always available within the Service to offer advice, support and scrutiny.

 

·  An updated 2020/21 Audit Plan would be presented to the Committee in September 2020 and Internal Audit staff had been briefed to look for amended procedures which might necessitate changes to the Plan.

 

·  With regard to contract management, the Internal Audit team would look at how the processes functioned during the COVID-19 emergency and remote working and potentially treat that as a separate piece of work.

 

·  There were major cultural, wellbeing and staff management issues regarding remote working.  The Internal Audit team was looking to pilot a piece of work at Ashford Borough Council about home working and the findings could be shared with Maidstone depending on its plans in that regard.

 

·  An Internal Audit review had been undertaken in respect of Corporate Credit Cards and the controls were found to be sound.  The Internal Audit team had tested ten corporate credit card holders and found one incident where the form had not been completed or retained but on further investigation the spending had been verified as accurate.  One of the actions arising from the review was that credit limits are periodically reviewed to ensure that they are appropriate.  There were three instances out of a sample of twenty five where the Internal Audit team could not immediately find the receipts for those payments but they were able to gain assurance by other means that the payments were legitimate so whilst there were some issues around retention of documentation there were no issues around the legitimacy of the payments.

 

·  The reviews relating to the discharge of planning conditions and waste crime had been undertaken late in the year and did not have an assurance rating but recommendations had been made which would be followed up and reported to the Committee in due course.  As part of that process, Members’ concerns that, for example, unpaid fixed penalty notices for some waste crimes are not routinely prosecuted would be addressed.

 

Members thanked the Head of Audit Partnership for a comprehensive summary of the activities of the Internal Audit team during 2019/20 and congratulated the team on its achievements in terms of professional development.

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.  That the annual opinion of the Head of Audit Partnership on the overall adequacy and effectiveness of the Council’s internal control, governance and risk management be noted.

 

2.  That the work underlying the opinion plus the Head of Audit Partnership’s assurance of its completion with sufficient independence and in conformance with relevant Standards be noted.

 

3.  That the conclusion of CIPFA’s External Quality Assessment of Mid-Kent Audit that the Partnership Fully Conforms with relevant Standards be noted.

 

Supporting documents: