Audit and Governance Committee Minutes

Audit and Governance Committee Minutes

Thursday 19 September 2013
10:00 a.m.
Oberhausen Room,Town Hall, Middlesbrough

Attendance Details

Junier, (Chair), C Hobson, Hudson, P Khan, McPartland, Taylor
B Baldam, P Clark, D Donaldson, H Fowler, S Harker, L Henman
Apologies for absence:
were submitted on behalf of Councillor Loughborough
Declarations of interest:

There were no Declarations of Interest at this point in the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution

The minutes of the meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee held on 20 June 2013 were taken as read and approved as a correct record.


The Audit Manager presented a report to inform Members of the progress made to date in delivering the 2013/2014 Internal Audit Plan, any developments likely to impact on the Plan, and other agreed performance measures throughout the remainder of the year.  The report also outlined the main findings from 2013/2014 internal audit reports that had been issued in final this year, together with any remaining reports from the previous year that had not previously been reported to the Committee.  An update on the progress made to implement outstanding Priority One recommendations made as a result of audit work undertaken was also provided.


Members approved the 2013/2014 Audit Plan on 26 June 2013 and the total number of planned audit days was 1,325.  The performance target for the Service was to deliver 100% of the agreed Audit Plan. 


Performance measures for 2013/2014 were detailed at Appendix One to the submitted report. Additional measures had been added this year aimed at developing some identified weak areas in the Audit Team to help monitor and feed into the appraisal process and deliver as effective an audit service as possible. The main target was the completion of the Audit Plan which was currently at 20% completed. Based on the last few years, this was a healthy position as the first few months of the financial year were generally used for completing the previous year’s work.


With regard to the customer satisfaction surveys, the Auditor explained that a survey was sent out with every draft Audit Report. However, the number of completed returns was not very high, even though the Audit Service did chase them up. The Service was introducing a new software system and intended to produce a new shorter survey as part of the changes.


The majority of performance indicators were currently on target and productivity had improved due to much closer monitoring of how the auditors’ time was used.


Appendix 2 to the submitted report provided a summary of final audit reports issued since the last report to the Committee. Only two areas had received limited assurance and these were Fleet Management and the Pension IT system. Control weaknesses had been identified and recommendations made. Members requested copies of the reports which the Audit Manager agreed to provide. 


It was clarified that the report on Members Allowances related to the administration of claims rather than allowances.


With regard to progress to implement outstanding Priority 1 recommendations, details of the Audits were shown at Appendix 3 to the submitted report. Only two items were still ongoing which were the Foster Carers' Payment Module and Attendance Management. The Auditor explained that the Foster Carers' Payment Module had just been implemented in August 2013 and there had been some delays in receipt of the correct information for Attendance Management.

Appendix 4 to the submitted report provided details of the variations to the Audit Plan to date. Nothing had been taken out of the Plan, however some of the contingency time had been used. A review of the anti-fraud controls had been undertaken following an anonymous allegation that tools and small items of equipment were being misappropriated from the central depot. No evidence had been found to prove the allegations but recommendations were made to strengthen controls to prevent any possible future misuse. The Auditor confirmed that all allegations no matter how small would be investigated and dealt with by the appropriate service area.


The Auditor also highlighted that a data quality review of the submissions made as part of the Troubled Families Initiative had been carried out at the request of the Deputy Director of Resources. A similar audit had been carried out at Redcar and Cleveland and best practice and any issues would be shared.


It was highlighted that each individual audit report provided an opinion on the system or area under review.  The opinions used by the Tees Valley Audit and Assurance Service (TVAAS) were provided in Appendix Five to the submitted report for Members' information.


AGREED that:


1.   the information provided in relation to progress on the 2013/2014 Audit Plan be received and noted.

2.   copies of the final audit reports on Fleet Management and the Pension IT system would be forwarded to Members of the Audit and Governance Committee.


The Chair informed the Committee that Ian Hope, a former auditor, had expressed an interest in joining the Audit and Governance Committee as an Independent Member.  The Chair explained that he had obtained advice from Legal and Democratic Services and external audit and had observed and spoken to other regional local authority Audit Committees and Members who had recruited an ex-employee as an independent member soon after cessation of service.   The Chair also stated that appropriate safeguards for independence would be put in place.


AGREED that:

1.    Ian Hope be appointed as an Independent Member to the Audit and Governance Committee with immediate effect.

2.    The appointment was renewable on an annual basis following the Annual Council Meeting.


External Auditor


The External Auditor informed the Committee that the progress report on the audit of Middlesbrough Council's Statement of Accounts for 2012-2013 would be presented to the Corporate Affairs Committee on 25 September 2013.  The Auditor highlighted that in future it would be prudent for the report to be presented to the Audit and Governance Committee also, prior to submission to the Corporate Affairs Committee.  The External Auditor explained that another Local Authority held joint Audit and Governance and Corporate Affairs Committee meetings to consider the accounts and this may be an option for Middlesbrough to consider.

Whilst work was currently still in progress, the Auditor was confident that the Accounts would be signed off by 30 September 2013.  The External Auditor anticipated issuing an unqualified audit opinion on the truth and fairness of the financial statements and the Council's overall Value for Money arrangements. 




Work Programme 2013/2014


The following items were suggested for the Work Programme 2013/2014:


- Welfare Reform
- IT Refresh
- Investments
- Funds gifted to the Authority


AGREED that Welfare Reform, IT Refresh, Investments and Funds Gifted to the Authority be added as topics for the Audit and Governance Committee’s Work Programme 2013/2014.

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