2019/20 Audit and Investigation Annual Report
To consider the report.
Andrew Moulton, Assistant Director of Governance at Wokingham Borough Council, explained that the report would normally come earlier in the year but it was important to consider with the accounts. There was a shared audit service between RBWM and WBC, which provided audit services across the two councils. Andrew Moulton hoped for a positive relationship with the committee so that the service could continually improve.
Catherine Hickman, Lead Specialist Audit and Investigation, explained that the report summarised the work of the Shared Audit and Investigation Service (SAIS) for the 2019/20 financial year. The purpose of the report was for the Head of Internal Audit to report annually on the council’s internal control framework. The report summarised the key headlines arising from work during the year and Appendix A(I) listed the audits undertaken to form the overall opinion, the position of the audits at 31 March, the audit opinions given and with those audits falling into the second lowest category of audit opinion being summarised in the main report. Catherine Hickman summarised the work of investigations which included a successful proactive Business Rate/Exemption Relief exercise where over £174k was identified as being billable to the charge payer. A recent Regulation of Investigatory Powers Inspection by the Investigatory Power’s Commissioners Office resulted in a positive outcome for the council. A review of the SAIS’s conformance with their professional body’s Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (PSIAS), undertaken by CIPFA in 2018 resulted in the Service achieving the highest category of opinion and this had been maintained through annual self-assessments against the Standards. The recommendation for members to consider was to note the progress that had been made in achieving the 2019/20 Audit and Investigation Plan.
A resident had requested to speak on the item. Mr Hill noted that there had no instances of fraud or irregularity but asked what would a member of staff or resident do if they suspected fraud.
Catherine Hickman explained that there was a whistleblowing process in place which was there to be used if it was needed.
Councillor L Jones asked if there was a timetable for the actions that were outstanding on full compliance with the PSIAS. Regarding the audit plan, she asked if it was the right mix and also questioned a number of deferments that were stated in the report and the reason for them.
Catherine Hickman said that there was an action plan produced each year with regard to the PSIAS through an annual self-assessment process, and Andrew Moulton added that the Committee may want to consider an item on compliance as part of their Work Programme.
Councillor Price said that one of the key implications of the report was that there was confidence that public funds were being used effectively. She believed that this had not happened and asked what lessons had been learnt by the shared audit service.
Andrew Moulton said that the team were committed to learning and wanted the service to provide reassurance to both members and residents. Adele Taylor said that the new Audit and Governance Committee had been created to provide the assurances that members were looking for and would allow members to feel like they had the chance to part of the audit plan and process.
Councillor Rayner said that it was a robust report and said that as resources had been reduced a number of audits had been deferred. Andrew Moulton said that the expectation was to have it complete on time but Covid delayed the report. The next item on the agenda looked at this year’s audit plan and showed that the teams capacity was being used in the best way possible.
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY; That the Audit and Governance Committee noted:
i) The SAIS activity for the financial year end 31 March 2020
ii) Progress in achieving the 2019/20 Internal Audit and Investigation Plan