The CIA presented the Draft Internal Audit Operational Plan 2023/24. Following presentation of the report, questions were invited from Members of the Committee:
· A Member expressed concern about the limited staff resources in the Internal Audit Team and the potential need to rely on expensive external resource to carry out the full audit programme, and queried if there was any likelihood of resolution. It was explained that it would be preferred not to use external resources. The Senior Auditor vacancy has been filled which takes the team to full complement except for the 0.5 FTE Chief Internal Auditor role. The 5 months vacancy saving for the senior auditor post may be used to procure external resource subject to cost and budgetary considerations.
· It was questioned if the 0.5 FTE Chief Internal Auditor funding could be utilised to provide a lower grade post. This idea was not discounted but the Committee was reminded that there are recruitment issues in audit teams across Wales/UK. The delivery model is under consideration including wider regional collaboration which could give access to specialist provision e.g. IT audit skills. The Chair expects the Committee to be consulted on the proposed new delivery models.
Noting the CIA’s assessment that the target 5.5 FTE was barely adequate, the current resourcing position of 5.0 FTE and an extended, uncertain timeline for transitioning to the target delivery model, the Committee endorsed the CIA’s comments, noted the likely consequences on levels of control assurance/nature of CIA opinion able to be provided at Year end, the committee requested that this matter be escalated to the Cabinet and Council for formal noting and, as appropriate, discussion with the Deputy Chief Executive.
The Head of Finance accepted the Committee’s view whilst welcoming a period to review the position and to explore models of delivery.
· A Member expressed concern about the one-third reduction to the total available days and questioned if there were comparisons available in other organisations as there did not appear to be sufficient auditors to undertake the required work. It was explained that the calculation is based on non-productive days (e.g. team meetings, appraisals, leave etc). It was added that a qualified auditor has a requirement of 40 hours CPD per year.
· The Chair asked why a review of the controls associated with proposing and implementing the anticipated further financial savings by Heads of Service has not been built into the plan. It was responded that all aspects have been considered and the Governance and Audit Committee is invited to input suggestions, and consideration will be given to adding time into the plan.
The Head of Finance provided assurance that Cabinet had requested senior leadership to undertake close and regular budget monitoring of all services for 2023/24. A significant amount of pressure has been added into the budget and the financial risks and budgetary risks of non-delivery of some of those savings. Regular meetings are being held with services presenting a high budget risk for the year and meetings are regularly held with officers responsible for delivering the budgetary savings. These arrangements provide real-time access to the action that's being taken by services to reduce costs The Head of Finance, commented that reassurance can be taken from the monitoring arrangements for this financial year. Noting these comments, the Chair asked that consideration is given to more clearly considering consequential operational risks on service delivery and overall control alongside the financial risks be included in the plan.
As per the report recommendations, the Governance and Audit Committee reviewed, commented on and noted the Draft Internal Audit Plan 2023/24 prior to its anticipated approval at the next meeting.