Agenda item

Internal Audit Annual Report & Opinion 2023-2024

To receive and consider the report of the Head of Audit and Risk.


The Chair invited the Head of Audit and Risk to present the annual summary of work undertaken by the Internal Audit Service and provide an opinion, as required by the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards, of the adequacy and effectiveness of the council’s framework of governance, risk management and control.


The Committee were reassured that the Head of Audit and Risk was confident of their independence and reported no impairments or restrictions to the work of the team. To support this there are direct reporting lines to the Chair of the Governance Committee and the Chief Executive, and safeguards were in place given the other service areas that the Head of Service has responsibility for, as demonstrated by a third party undertaking an audit on the risk management provision included within the agenda.


The report outlines areas of work carried out over the past year and summarises the findings, with five reviews receiving a ‘substantial’ assurance, five ‘adequate’ and five ‘limited, with two of the latter concerning housing standards and event management appended to the report. The Committee also welcomed progress updates on actions in relation to the three other limited reports, sundry debtors, physical security and environmental controls and driving licence checks.


Members were directed to the final sections of the report which highlighted other work of the team, including proactive support and membership of project groups across the council, to support an effective control environment and overall performance of the team. The service also contributes to the production of the Annual Governance Statement.


Although there had been five limited assurance ratings, it was acknowledged that there had been positive progress on agreed actions with many implemented already that have addressed the key issues identified.


Given the evidence provided by reviews undertaken by the Internal Audit Service through the year, and supplemented by other sources of assurance, it was considered that the overall adequacy and effectiveness of the council’s governance, risk management and control processes were adequate for the financial year ending 31 March 2024.


In response to a request regarding the costings related to the physical security and environmental controls report, a further update would be provided after the meeting.


Responding to queries raised about the actions agreed around the governance of event management, the Head of Communications and Visitor Economy clarified the work already underway which included project plans being produced and a greater focus on documentation around health and safety and budgeting. Plans for the Flower Show were largely finalised for this year, however planning for 2025’s event had already started and areas for improvements being reviewed.


On a number of recommendations rejected following the review of risk management, specifically around 1-2-1 meetings, Members were advised this would be for all staff and was considered unnecessary given existing appraisal processes in place and prominence of risk management at a departmental level.


Providing reassurance around the production of policies outlined within the event management action plan, the Committee heard that many of the actions were already being implemented and that the policies would consolidate this into one document, with this to be completed following the delivery of a number of large events in the coming months. It was also noted that the policy would also support other services across the council, as well as external partners to run events effectively.


On outstanding balances of sundry debts, it was confirmed that these levels are included within the quarterly capital monitoring process with an outturn report currently being prepared. Current levels however, is around £1.3 million. This level had reduced following the review earlier in the year, with a more proactive approach being taken through regular monitoring.


Following queries regarding the adequacy of staffing within the housing team to achieve the agreed actions within the report, Members heard that a proactive housing officer had been employed to review policies and procedures but the service had seen an increase in reactive housing standard complaints with national press attention in this area. Furthermore a new Head of Public Protection was due to start in July to support delivery of the agreed actions. Responding to a question over capacity within the public protection service, it was noted that a service review was underway.


Resolved – That the report be noted.

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