6 monthly update - Progress Report on Unfavourable Audit Opinions
The Chief Internal Auditor presented the 6-monthly update on Unfavourable Audit Opinions. Following presentation of the report, questions and comments were invited.
A Member asked about procedures in place to manage risks referring to historic music events held at Caldicot Castle, whilst monetising the asset to maximum extent. The Deputy Chief Executive drew a distinction between events organised by the Council and other events where the venue is hired out to external providers who bring in expertise/services from outside. The Limited opinion referred to previous music events organised by the authority. An update was provided that the Council has a different approach to the organisation of events now. It was queried if the hire rates could be reviewed without detriment to hirers from the local community.
A Member asked for an update on Agency Workers and if the new contract had been finalised. It was responded that a new contract is in place. Audit requires key controls to be in place for the agency worker system to ensure sound financial management, governance arrangements and risk management etc. The work has been followed up and the resulting opinion will be presented to Governance and Audit Committee in due course. It was suggested that the service manager would be able to provide more details. The Member will follow this up.
County Councillor I. Chandler declared a personal, non-prejudicial interest as he has three children travelling to school on PTU buses. He referred to the Passenger Transport Unit Vehicle Maintenance risk identified as “High” and the revised opinion to follow in 2022/23. The process was queried between identification as a high risk, limited opinion and moving to a revised opinion to follow up in the current year. It was queried if the service manager works with internal audit to remedy the risk. The Chief Internal Auditor explained that the level of risk is as perceived by the team when the audit plan is undertaken based on the information available. The service manager would be better placed to address operational risks.
The Deputy Chief Executive explained that dialogue with the SLT (Strategic Leadership Team) and DMTs (Directorate Management Teams) has been strengthened to support progress, improvement and responsiveness to audit reports. It is a priority that Limited audit opinions are acted upon promptly to avoid two successive limited opinions.
A Member asked about attendance management and was informed that some weaknesses were identified initially and an action plan put in place. The majority of improvements were implemented and the opinion was changed to reasonable. It was confirmed that an improvement has been noted arising from implementation of the improvements. The Chief Internal Auditor will provide further information at a future meeting.
It was requested that the Committee is provided with the two limited opinion reports in full at the next committee meeting
In response to a question about the lateness in presenting opinions from Sept 2021, it was explained that timing of meetings and cancellations had caused delays.
In line with the report recommendations, the Governance and Audit Committee:
1. Noted the improvements made by service areas following the original Limited assurance audit opinions issued; and
2. Endorsed that if the Members of the Governance & Audit Committee are concerned about any of the audit opinions issued or lack of improvement made after the follow up audit review, consideration be given to calling in the operational manager and the Head of Service to provide justification for lack of progress and hold them to account for future improvements.