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Contact: Democratic Services
Declarations of Interest
To receive declarations of personal and prejudicial interest (if any) from Members/Officers in accordance with the provisions of the Members’ Code of Conduct adopted by Council from 1 September 2014.
To receive for approval the minutes of the Committee of 26/01/2023
The minutes of the previous meeting of the Governance and Audit Committee dated 26 January 2023 were approved subject to two amendments: the need to distinguish between Members and Lay Members both in the minutes of the last meeting and on the agenda for the meeting and removing ‘Councillor’ from the Chair’s name (both done on the BCBC website in advance of the meeting).
A Member drew attention to the minute on the regulatory tracker (page 4) detailing the need for a narrative around the Amber and Red categories, especially how it would be possible to identify officers responsible for the corrective plans and approval of recommendations. The Chairperson suggested that officers could have a look at this in discussions about the regulatory tracker.
The Senior Democratic Services Officer - Committees presented the report, noting that its purpose was to provide Members with an update on the Governance and Audit Committee Action Record. This had been devised to assist Members in tracking the decisions made by the Committee, to include any follow up actions where required.
A member requested a report on cyber security, and it was agreed this could be considered as part of the discussion on the Forward Work Programme.
The Chairperson suggested that some of the matters in the report would be dealt with in the meeting because there were comprehensive reports under Item 5, Audit Wales Governance and Audit Committee Reports but he wanted to draw attention to two items:
· The Annual Governance Statement. The Chairperson asked for confirmation this had been dealt with, which was provided.
· Corporate Complaints. The Chairperson noted that the internal update report on this matter was due to be submitted to Members at this meeting. It was agreed the report would be added to the Forward Work Programme for submission to the June meeting of the committee.
A representative from Audit Wales noted there was an action for Audit Wales relating to rough sleeping and homelessness. In response, she noted that in terms of performance measures and metrics, that Welsh Government sets the national performance measures for homelessness and rough sleeping, and they have also been collating monthly data. These have been shared with the Chief Executive and those could be shared more widely with Members of the committee to provide further information around the topic.
A Lay Member drew attention to those actions related to the Corporate Risk Assessment 2022-23 that were classified as ‘Ongoing’ in terms of when they would be brought to the committee and whether it was necessary to have this in the Action Record. Items of this kind would be on the Action Record permanently.
In response it was noted that the corporate risk assessment was reviewed very regularly, and it is due to come back to this committee in June. It is currently being updated, taking account of comments that were made by Members last time with regard to presentational issues.
The committee noted the Action Record and provided comments on this, as appropriate.
It was agreed to request that the Chief Executive circulate the data arising from the performance measures and metrics (including the monthly data) arising from the national performance measures for homelessness and rough sleeping set by the Welsh Government.
The purpose of the report was to submit to the Committee reports from Audit Wales, including an update on the financial and performance audit work undertaken, and due to be undertaken, by Audit Wales, along with the management response to the Performance Management Review.
Audit Wales provided a number of reports for the Governance and Audit Committee to consider. These are:
The Audit Wales Work Programme and Timetable (Appendix A) –
under the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021, the Auditor General is required to produce a work programme update for each financial year for each principal council covering both his functions and those of
‘relevant regulators’ (Care Inspectorate Wales and Estyn). At the meeting
of the Governance and Audit Committee in July 2021, Audit Wales reported
that they will provide an updated version of this report to the Council on a
quarterly basis. Appendix A is an updated position as of 31st March 2023.
Annual Audit Summary 2022 (Appendix B) – this report shows the work completed since the last Annual Audit Summary, which was issued in January 2022. The audit summary forms part of the duties of the Auditor General for Wales.
Performance Management Review (Appendix C) – the report covers the
review of the Council’s performance management arrangements,
undertaken in order to establish how well they inform the Council of
progress in meeting its priorities which was issued in February 2023. The
management response to this report is attached as Appendix D.
The Audit Manager from Audit Wales briefly introduced the financial audit section of the first report noting their audit of the 2021-22 financial statements and 2021-22 grants work was now complete.
She acknowledged that they were late signing last year's accounts due to a number of national issues and that planning work was getting underway now for the 2022-23 financial audit.
In terms of the 2022-23 financial statements, she noted they were hoping to bring an outline audit plan to the next committee meeting and that there will be a more detailed plan following that upon the conclusion of the planning work. Due to a revised audit approach this year, it was necessary to go through the motions and work out what the audit risks are in detail before a fully-fledged plan is finalised.
The Performance Audit Manager at Audit Wales provided a brief overview of the performance audit aspects of the report.
In terms of Audit Wales’s assurance and risk assessment process, this is work conducted across all twenty-two Councils to look at a range of services and arrangements. This allows Audit Wales to determine whether councils have proper arrangements and are meeting their sustainable development principle, but it also helps shape future work.
The financial position at all twenty-two councils is an ongoing piece of work.
In terms of capital programme management, Audit Wales is hoping that a project brief will go out to the Council fairly shortly, setting out the scope of that work. That would be a piece ... view the full minutes text for item 64.
The purpose of the report was to provide Members of the Committee with a position statement on progress made against the audit work included and approved within the Internal Audit Risk Based Plan 2022-23.
The Internal Audit Plan for 2022-23 was submitted to the Governance and Audit Committee for consideration and approval on 22nd June 2022. The Plan outlined the assignments to be conducted which would provide sufficient coverage to provide an opinion at the end of 2022-23.
The Plan was flexible to allow for changing circumstances and events that may occur, such as requests to respond to new issues that may emerge.
Progress made against the approved Plan for the period 1st April 2022 to 31st March 2023 is attached at Appendix A. This details the current status of each planned review, the audit opinion, and the number of any high, medium, or low priority recommendations that have been made to improve the control environment.
It should be noted that some reviews listed have no audit opinion, for example advice and guidance and Governance and Audit Committee/ Corporate Management Board (CMB) reporting. This is because the audit work conducted in respect of these items is planned but the nature of the work does not lead to testing and the formation of an audit opinion, although in some instances recommendations are made.
Appendix A illustrates that a total of seventeen audits have been completed with an audit opinion whilst a further six audits have been issued as draft. Feedback is awaited from the service departments in respect of the management action plans for these draft audits and once received the reports will be finalised. In addition, ten audits are under review with the draft audit reports due to be issued imminently. Therefore, it is estimated that the audit opinion of thirty-three audits will feed into the overall annual audit opinion for 2022-23.
Based on the assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the areas examined through testing of the effectiveness of the internal control environment the audit opinions for the seventeen audits are as follow: five have been given substantial assurance, eleven reasonable assurance and one audit has been given an audit opinion of limited, that is only limited assurance can be placed on the current system of internal control.
This last one was in respect of a primary school and details are included within the report, but the key issues were in respect of governance arrangements. This audit was undertaken in October 2022. Although some strengths were identified, it was noted that the school was significantly affected by the pandemic and key issues were found. These were in respect of the Governing Body which had failed the statutory requirement to meet termly during the 2021/22 academic year due to Membership and attendance issues making it non quorate. As a result, there was no evidence that some key issues such as budget and policies had been reviewed and agreed by the Governing Body. There were also issues identified in respect ... view the full minutes text for item 65.
The purpose of the report was to present to Members of the Governance and Audit Committee the Regional Internal Audit Service Charter for 2023-24 for approval.
The new Head of RIAS noted that this was an important document as it sets out the governance arrangements that are in place.
The RIAS Charter establishes the position of internal audit activity within each Council along with reporting lines. It is a formal document that defines the purpose, authority, and responsibility of internal audit activities.
The Charter defines the purpose, authority, and responsibilities of the RIAS across Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taf and the Vale of Glamorgan Councils. The Charter was fully reviewed and amended for 2020-21 to develop a consistent charter for the four Councils and to be consistent with the objectives of the Shared Service, that is, to eliminate duplication and apply best practice.
The Charter establishes the position of internal audit activity within each Council, along with reporting lines, authorising access to records, personnel, and physical property relevant to the performance of audit work and defines the scope of internal audit activities.
The Head of Internal Audit is responsible for reviewing the Charter and presenting it to each Council’s Governance and Audit Committee annually for review and approval in line with the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards.
RIAS is committed to meeting the standards laid down in the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards Framework and any significant deviations from the Standards will be reported to the Governance and Audit Committee.
The Charter has been updated to include in Section 2.17, “in addition to the Code of Ethics staff must comply with the Seven Principles of Public Life and the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Code of Corporate Governance which are referred to in Annex 3 – Additional Requirements.”
Paragraph 4.11 of the Charter relating to External Assessment has also been updated to reflect that a comprehensive and detailed self-assessment has been conducted during 2022 and shared with the external assessors in November 2022. The external assessment of the RIAS is currently in progress and is due to be completed in April 2023.
In response to the presentation, a Member, referencing section 2.12, “The Head of Internal Audit will aim to have sound working relationships and channels of communication with Elected Members and in particular, Governance & Audit Committee, Cabinet and Scrutiny Committees,” asked how this would work in practice, and whether there were pointers in terms of best practice.
The Head of RIAS indicated that thisdemonstrated his independence and that of his team. If any elected Member has any concerns about how Council business is operating, then they can come to him and discuss concerns. He made it clear he was part of the whistle blowing procedure so if an elected Member had a serious concern about an irregularity or inefficiencies, they could come directly to him.
As a follow up, the Member asked how this could be communicated to all elected Members. The Head of RIAS indicated they would ... view the full minutes text for item 66.
The purpose of the report was to present the updated Anti tax Evasion Policy to the committee prior to the Policy being presented to Cabinet for approval in June 2023.
The Chief Officer - Finance, Performance & Change indicated that the Council is committed to establishing and maintaining effective arrangements to prevent and detect acts of bribery, corruption, and tax evasion in relation to Council services. The Council requires all Members and employees to demonstrate the highest standards of honesty and integrity, and this includes compliance with the relevant legislation.
The Council has in place Anti-Fraud and Bribery and Anti-Money Laundering policies to support effective arrangements to prevent and detect acts of bribery and corruption which are monitored and reviewed by the Governance and Audit Committee.
The government believes that relevant bodies should be criminally liable where they fail to prevent those who act for or on their behalf from criminally facilitating tax evasion. So, this tax evasion policy specifically addresses the prevention of tax evasion and provides a coherent and consistent approach for all employees and any person who perform services for or on behalf of Bridgend County Borough Council. The policy outlines the responsibilities of staff, and the commitment required at a senior level within the Council to implement the measures required to limit our exposure to this risk. It also addresses how concerns should be reported, the training and information which is going to be made available to staff in this regard and also how the policy will be reviewed.
Members of the committee are asked to consider the policy as part of their role to obtain assurance over the Council’s corporate governance and risk management arrangements. The policy will be considered by Cabinet in June.
A Member queried how many people had been prosecuted in the last year for the non-payment of Council Tax. The Chief Officer - Finance, Performance & Change indicated she did not have the figure with her but could provide the Member with it outside the meeting.
Another Member discussed the challenge of identifying people ‘associated’ with the Council who perform services for or on behalf of it and whether or not any of them try to evade paying tax.
In response, the Chief Officer - Finance, Performance & Change reminded Members that the Council had very tight processes in place with regards to how people are paid. It is about staff being aware when they deal with something which is outside of our normal processes. If, for instance, somebody asked to be paid cash in hand rather ... view the full minutes text for item 67.
The purpose of this report was to seek approval for the proposed Forward Work Programme for 2023-24.
The Deputy Head of Finance indicated that the schedule of items for discussion at specific meetings may be subject to change, to take into account other items that need to be considered, and operational factors.
It should be noted that the meeting dates are subject to approval by Council at its Annual Meeting to be held on 17 May 2023.
In respect of specific items, the report on Corporate Complaints has been deferred until June and that is not on this Forward Work Programme, but that will come to June's meeting, and cyber security will be picked up as part of the corporate risk assessment. In addition, the statement of accounts will come to a future meeting, as appropriate.
Members were asked whether there were any additional reports they would like on the Forward Work Programme, or any officers they would like to invite to meetings.
A Member indicated that it would be appropriate to receive an update on Disabled Facilities Grants.
The Committee considered and approved the Forward Work Programme for 2023-24.
It was agreed that the issue of data security would be included as part of the Corporate Risk Assessment, and that the Cabinet Member and officers with responsibility for these matters should be invited to the next meeting.
It was agreed the report on Corporate Complaints would be added to the Forward Work Programme for submission to the June meeting of the committee.
It was agreed to put an update on Disabled Facilities Grants on the Forward Work Programme in the coming year.
To consider any other items(s) of business in respect of which notice has been given in accordance with Rule 4 of the Council Procedure Rules and which the person presiding at the meeting is of the opinion should by reason of special circumstances be transacted at the meeting as a matter of urgency.