To report progress against the Internal Audit Plan 2021-21 for the period 01 April 2021 including planned work until 30 June 2021 and the resulting level of assurance. To provide an update to members on the resourcing issues of the internal audit team.
Members considered the Internal Audit Plan 2021/22 Progress Report Q1 presented by Kathy Woodward.
Members made comments, asked questions, and received responses as follows:
· Councillor Yeulett asked if the proposal to conduct work outside the normal scope would involve the public sector only or would it be broader? Kathy Woodward replied that it would be primarily with the public sector, particularly looking at drainage boards. It is currently an exploratory idea, but they are looking to see if scope is there to provide that service to some of the smaller authorities who do not have the capacity to deliver internal audit functions. Councillor Yeulett asked if Audit have the capacity or expertise. Kathy Woodward said it would be something we would look to do with existing capacity and within existing skillsets, and she also has previous experience of work of this nature. Furthermore, it would also future proof the service by improving the skillset of some of our own team as well as providing additional income for FDC. Councillor Yeulett said he hoped they would succeed and wished them all the best in this direction.
· Councillor Wicks asked if this is a way that we can keep a closer eye on the way internal drainage boards operate because of the amount of money we give them. Kathy Woodward responded that it would be purely to provide an independent service to those types of organisation whatever they may be; to do otherwise would create a conflict of interest.
· Councillor Booth said that we have councillor representation on the IDBs, and it is their role to keep an eye on them. His understanding is that the audit regulations around IDBs are similar to parish councils, but he thinks Kathy Woodward’s proposals would provide a good crossover of skills.
· Councillor Booth referred to 3.2 of the report which indicated that extra time had been spent at Kings Lynn and West Norfolk and asked which FDC audits have been impacted as a result. Kathy Woodward said no internal audit had been affected but it was more about the review process; getting drafts issued, feedback from clients and client reports issued, which is why she is confident that the time lost can be made up quickly.
· Councillor Booth referred to the review of completed audits and said that the number of high-risk recommendations under business rates were understandable because the process was new in respect of the Covid-19 grants; they had not existed before and it was inevitable there would be some teething problems. However, there were a high number of individual recommendations in respect of the completed audits for council tax billing and council tax recovery and housing benefits overpayments and he asked for summary of these given that it’s an area of focus for the external auditor.
· Kathy Woodward responded that the business rates audit is a standard audit governed by the SLA which has been in place for two years so would not include any of the business grants process. However, going through that process issues were identified around quality of data, for which work is ongoing this year. Regarding the number of recommendations relating to council tax benefits and council tax recovery and housing benefit overpayments, this is actually a very low number of recommendations compared to previous years. Unfortunately, she cannot provide detail today, but she will be happy to provide the committee with an update.
· Councillor Booth said he would appreciate this as he has previously raised a request about getting some style of executive report or summary of what the audits contain, and this proves a good example. Kathy Woodward said she will look into enhancing the reports to provide more information without breaching confidentiality.
· Peter Catchpole said that this is similar to the discussion held at Overview and Scrutiny on complaints and advised we can do a bit more on the themes to see if there are any patterns or trends that we should be looking at to help this committee.
Members of Audit and Risk Management Committee AGREED to note the activity and performance of the internal audit function.