Meeting documents

Audit Committee
Tuesday, 26th July, 2016 9.30 am

Date: Tuesday 26th July 2016 Time: 9.30 a.m. Place: Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Ebbw Vale

Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

PresentAndWithReport toReport of
COUNCILLOR J. MASON (CHAIR)

Councillors M. Cross
G. Collier
M. Dally
C. Meredith
John Morgan
Mrs. D. Rowberry
L. Winnett

Mr. Peter Williams – Lay Member
Item
No
Item/Resolution Status Action
PUBLIC
1. APOLOGIES

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors N. Daniels and K. Chaplin.

Noted
2. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST AND DISPENSATIONS

No declarations of interest or dispensations were reported.

Noted
3. WAO GOVERNANCE REVIEW WITH A FOCUS ON SCRUTINY
Report (98K/bytes)
Appendix (357K/bytes)

Consideration was given to Wales Audit Office report which updated the Audit Committee on the outcome of the 'Governance Review with a Focus on Scrutiny' received in April 2016. The report was presented to provide assurance that the Proposals for Improvement within the WAO report would be included as part of the Scrutiny Action Plan.

The WAO Representative presented the report and highlighted points contained therein. The Auditor General's Improvement Assessment Letter dated October 2013 made two statutory recommendations for improvement under section 19 of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009. The first was to address weaknesses in financial planning by improving the quality of reports to Members on budget savings proposals, and the second was to strengthen scrutiny of decision making.

Also in May 2014 the Auditor General published his improvement study report 'Good Scrutiny? Good Question!' which summarised the work undertaken in relation to scrutiny in Local Government during 2012-13. This study identified eight all-Wales recommendations to improve scrutiny across the 22 Councils in Wales.

In December 2015 a further review was undertaken of the Council's progress in relation to the Auditor General's Statutory Recommendation 2, and the implementation of it's Scrutiny Arrangements Action Plan.

The review concluded that the Council had taken positive steps to address the Auditor General's October 2013 statutory recommendation relating to scrutiny, and was implementing its Scrutiny Arrangements Action Plan, however more work was still needed to make scrutiny more effective and consistent in practice. The detailed findings were attached at Appendix 1 to the report.

Further proposals for improvement were made that recognised the progress made by the Council and reflected emerging issues, and these were detailed at section 10 of the WAO summary report.

In response to a question raised by a Member regarding the Forward Work Programme, the WAO representative referred to the second proposal for improvement (P2) which referred to the link between Scrutiny Chairs and the Chair of Audit, in terms of strengthening the planning of the Forward Work Programmes, e.g. if the WAO highlighted an area for concern and proposals for improvement, Members may require a monitoring item to be placed on the Scrutiny agenda. He said having that process in place for Chairs to meet would help shape the FWP for the year moving forward.

The Corporate Performance Manager said in addition to the WAO proposal for improvement, arrangements had been put in place giving Members the opportunity to add items to the FWP. Agenda preparation meetings were held, and also for the new cycle of meetings an item would be included on agendas listing the items for the next meeting. This would give Members an opportunity to discuss these items or bring forward any additional items they feel may be appropriate.

The Vice-Chair referred to the current financial climate and the need to make savings. He said improving the scrutiny function was about adopting better practices in order to improve the effectiveness what we do in order to achieve savings, whilst improving outcomes for local people.

The WAO Representative agreed, he said it was about being more effective at little extra cost. He said the Council should encourage public engagement at Scrutiny meetings by holding meetings out in the community where possible. He said most Councils struggled with public engagement, but he urged the Council to look at other LA's and their methods etc.

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the Audit Committee note that the Scrutiny Action Plan be updated and monitored by the Democratic Services Committee who recommend to Council.

Agreed
4. WALES AUDIT OFFICE (WAO) HUMAN RESOURCES 2012 REVIEW - PROGRESS FOLLOW-UP REVIEW

Report (100K/bytes)
Appendix (252K/bytes)

Consideration was given to Wales Audit Office report to consider the outcome of the WAO report, 'Human Resources 2012 Review - Progress Follow Up', received in May 2016, and to ensure appropriate actions are in place to meet the identified improvements.

At the invitation of the Chair the WAO Representative spoke to the report and highlighted points contained therein. In June 2012 the WAO carried out a review of the Council which sought to answer the question 'Does the Council have effective arrangements in place to manage and utilise its workforce?'.

The review concluded that the Council had a solid HR foundation but did not have in place arrangements or systems for the delivery of HR services that were likely to support continuous improvement. The Council had no separate and distinct strategic HR vision, and although HR had supported the Council in making important service changes, these changes had sometimes been reactive. A number of proposals for improvement were made and these were detailed at Section 5 of the summary report.

A further review was undertaken in November 2015. In carrying out this review, the WAO did not examine Single Status as it was nearing completion, and instead included a focus on the Council's wider approach to workforce planning.

The WAO concluded that the Council had made significant progress against the 2012 recommendations, although there were opportunities to further improve in some key areas. Strong HR leadership and vision are driving improvement in the Council's arrangements and systems that, if implemented effectively, are likely to help the Council achieve its wider service transformation.

A number of proposals for improvement had been made that recognise the progress made by the Council and reflect emerging issues, and these were detailed at section 9 of the summary report.

A Member referred to the WAO finding that action to reduce sickness absence was not yet effective. He felt that Members should have more involvement in this area, and should receive up to date information on staff changes etc. Another Member said that this information used to be circulated to Members previously.

In response the Head of Organisational Development confirmed that information on staffing structures was available within Directorates. However, she was unware that information used to be circulated Members, and undertook to look into the matter.

A brief discussion ensued when the Officer confirmed that an updated telephone list was available to view on the Council's intranet.

A Member pointed out that the telephone list did not include information on individual jobs etc., and due to ongoing problems with IT, many Members could not access the intranet.

The Chair confirmed that these issues would be raised with the Chair of Democratic Services Committee, i.e.

- Workforce information/structure charts
- Staffing information to be circulated to Members, i.e. leavers/starters
- Issues with the intranet
- Telephone directory

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and progress against the 2012 review be acknowledged, and that areas for improvement have either been implemented or there are appropriate actions in place.

Councillor John Morgan left the meeting at this juncture.

Agreed
5. AUDIT PLAN PROGRESS REPORT APRIL TO JUNE 2016
Report (96K/bytes)
Appex (247K/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Internal Audit Manager which updated the Audit Committee on the progress against the Internal Audit Plan for the period 1st April to 30th June, 2016.

The Head of Internal Audit spoke to the report and highlighted points contained therein. The Section had completed 20.85% of the Audit Plan for the period, against an Audit Plan target of 20.75% which was a pleasing start to the year.

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and progress made during the period 1st April, 2016 to 30th June, 2016 be noted.

Agreed
6. INTERNAL AUDIT CHARTER
Report (96K/bytes)
Appex (107K/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Head of Internal Audit which presented the Internal Audit Charter for 2016/17.

The Head of Internal Audit spoke to the report and highlighted points contained therein.

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the Audit Committee approve the Internal Audit Charter in line with good practice and the requirements of the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (PSIAS).

Agreed
TO RECEIVE AND CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING REPORT(S) WHICH IN THE OPINION OF THE PROPER OFFICER IS/ARE AN EXEMPT ITEM(S) TAKING INTO ACCOUNT CONSIDERATION OF THE PUBLIC INTEREST TEST AND THAT THE PRESS AND PUBLIC SHOULD BE EXCLUDED FROM THE MEETING (THE REASON FOR THE DECISION FOR THE EXEMPTION IS AVAILABLE ON A SCHEDULE MAINTAINED BY THE PROPER OFFICER)
7. INTERNAL AUDIT - SCHOOL CATERING RECONCILIATION REVIEW
Report (98K/bytes)
Appex 1 (117K/bytes)

Having regard to the views expressed by the Proper Officer regarding the public interest test, that on balance the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighed the public interest in disclosing the information and that the report should be exempt.

RESOLVED that the public be excluded whilst this item of business is transacted as it was likely there would be a disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraphs 13 & 14, Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended)

Consideration was given to report of the Internal Audit Manager.

The Audit Manager presented the report which detailed the findings of Internal Audit's review of School Meal Administration at a School within the Borough.

The Officer spoke to the report highlighted points contained. She confirmed that the report had been received and acted upon by the Catering School and the School, and a copy had also been sent to the Corporate Director of Education and the Corporate Director Environment & Regeneration.

The Head of Education Transformation & Performance said the Headteacher had highlighted concerns, which was positive. A number of weaknesses were identified, to be addressed by the Catering Section and the School, and these were detailed in Appendix A. A follow-up audit would be undertaken to monitor progress, and the Corporate would also ensure that the agreed actions are implemented.

A discussion ensued regarding the cashless payment system, when the Head of Internal Audit said there were various sources of income coming into the school, she was not aware whether there were any plans for a cashless system, but in terms of the different sources of income coming into the School, actions had been agreed to ensure that this was kept separate.

In response to concerns raised by Members regarding the provision of training, the Head of Internal Audit said every member of staff had a job description and certain responsibilities and duties to undertake, the training identified was about developing better procedures and for staff to adopt those duties.

The WAO Representative said the key issue for them was the evidence around training, i.e. ensuring that records were kept of individuals who had received training, and whether they felt it was appropriate to their needs, and that they had gained an adequate understanding of their roles and responsibilities.

The Head of School Transformation & Performance said in dealing with Schools, the Governing Body was responsible for holding the Headteacher to account and ensuring that processes in place were effective.

RESOLVED that the report which contained information which was likely to reveal the identity of an individual, and information relating to the financial and business affairs of persons other than the Authority, be accepted and the Audit Committee support the findings made.

Agreed
DECISIONS UNDER DELEGATED POWERS