The Deputy Head of Regional Internal Audit presented a position statement detailing progress made against the audit work included and approved within the Internal Audit Risk Based Plan 2021-22.
The Deputy Head of Regional Internal Audit informed the Committee that the Internal Audit Plan for 2021- 22 was approved by the Governance and Audit Committee on 18 June 2021, which outlined the assignments to be carried out which will provide sufficient coverage to provide an opinion at the end of 2021-22. She detailed the progress and status of each review for the period 1 April to 31 December 2021, whereby 14 audits had been completed with an opinion being provided. A further audit has been completed, the draft report issued and feedback was awaited from the Service Department. A total of 12 audits were currently on-going with another 13 allocated to auditors for commencement shortly. She stated that based on the assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the areas examined through testing of the effectiveness of the internal control environment an audit opinion of substantial assurance had been given to 3 completed reviews and an opinion of reasonable assurance to the other 11 completed reviews.
The Deputy Head of Regional Internal Audit reported that there are some items included on the audit plan which have yet to be allocated. Some of these areas such as Project Management and General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will be covered within the scope of other audits to allow some assurance to be given. She stated that service areas are under pressure and two planned audits, employee code of conduct and performance management, had been deferred. Any audits that remain unallocated by the year end will be included within the risk assessment process for the 2022-23 audit plan.
The Deputy Head of Regional Internal Audit informed the Committee that a total of 25 medium priority recommendations had been made to improve the control environment of the areas reviewed and 32 low priority recommendations. The implementation of these recommendations was being monitored to ensure that the identified and agreed improvements are being made and progress will be reported to Committee.
The lay member referred to the ongoing status of the reviews and questioned, out of 7 audits to take place in the Social Services and Wellbeing Directorate, why 3 had yet to be allocated and none completed. The Deputy Head of Regional Internal Audit informed the Committee that some breathing space had been given to the Directorate due to the pressures it had faced during the pandemic, although a piece of work had been commenced on Direct Payments. Discussions are taking place with the Director on the approach to the audits in the plan. She stated that the Director understands the need for some audit work to commence. The Deputy Head of Regional Internal Audit commented that an audit on WCCIS will not commence this year, and neither would the audits of Halo and Awen. The Head of the Regional Audit Service informed the Committee that this approach of pausing audits within Social Services was not unique to Bridgend as Internal Audit is mindful of the pressures Social Services Departments have faced across the region during the pandemic. It was hoped there would be a return to business as usual in the next year.
A member of the Committee asked whether the impact of Covid was within the remit of audit to be looked at, particularly with services to the elderly in care and in schools. The Deputy Head of Regional Internal Audit informed the Committee that assurance had been received from schools and advice and guidance is given to other Directorates. The Head of the Regional Audit Service commented that there had been no visits to care homes or schools during the pandemic, but work had taken place on changed arrangements and governance, however work had not been done on the impact of Covid on those client groups.
A member of the Committee asked whether the Committee will have an update report on the Arbed scheme. The Head of the Regional Audit Service stated that he was aware that a summary report had been published on the Council’s website and he would look at what could be brought to the Committee. The Chairperson requested that a report be submitted to the next meeting of the Committee, prior to the end of this Council term. The Head of the Regional Audit Service stated that he would have discussions with the relevant officers as to what can be brought to the next Committee.
The Chairperson asked for an update on the re-structure plans for the Internal Audit Service. The Head of the Regional Audit Service informed the Committee that the re-structure had been completed prior to Christmas and all staff had been matched to posts. Vacancies will be advertised next week. A member of the Committee asked whether staff within the service had been redeployed during the pandemic to support other services. The Head of the Regional Audit Service informed the Committee that some staff within Internal Audit were redeployed on a short-term basis to support critical services such as the Test, Trace and Protect project but they had now returned to their roles.
RESOLVED: That the Committee note the content of the report and the progress made against the 2021-22 Internal Audit Annual Risk Based Plan.