The Head of Finance presented the Audited / Examined Statement Of Accounts 2021/22 – Charitable Trust Funds Report. The following item, the ISA 260 or equivalent for Trust Funds was presented by the Audit Wales Officer. The items were considered together. The Committee was reminded that there is a full audit for the Welsh Church Fund, and an independent examination of the Monmouthshire Farm School Endowment Trust. It is proposed that unqualified opinions are issued for both funds.
Following presentation of the Welsh Church Fund report, Members were invited to ask questions:
Welsh Church Fund:
A Member queried, in the current financial climate, if it would be cheaper to have an independent review instead of Audit Wales’ services. The Head of Finance responded that the authority has responsibilities as custodian of the Welsh Church Fund. The Committee has previously considered this point and concluded to maintain the current arrangement so as to provide sufficient assurance for all the bodies that are members of the consolidated fund.
A Member agreed with this approach as several authorities rely on the Fund for monies to distribute to worthy causes and organisations. The robust audit approach is to be welcomed.
A Member queried how and to whom the monies are distributed and sought clarification on current levels of transparency. The Head of Finance explained that the Welsh Church Fund Committee membership and terms of reference are publicly available on the MCC website. There was a change in the decision-making process during 2022/23. The report of the Grant awards was previously ratified by Cabinet but now this function is carried out by Individual Cabinet Member Decision. Each authority has a different mechanism for awarding grants. Details of the grants awarded by each authority can be made available if required. The details are not published in the accounts as applications are sometimes made by named individuals. It was clarified that if an annual allocation is not spent, it can be rolled forward to the subsequent year.
A Member wished to make it clear that each authority has its own Committee and procedures.
In response to a question, it was confirmed that each authority has reference to the Welsh Church Fund on its website with details of eligibility and the application process. Consideration will be given to disclosure of the types of grants awarded being published in the Welsh Church Fund accounts.
In relation to considering the next annual set of accounts for the Welsh Church Fund. the Chair expressed the view that the trustees should provide an affirmation to the Governance and Audit Committee that grants have been made in accordance with the rules of the trust.
As detailed in the report recommendations, the audited 2021/22 statement of accounts for The Welsh Church Act Fund were approved in conjunction with the Audit Wales ISA260 Audit of Accounts report for The Welsh Church Act Fund.
The Chair signed the letter of representation on behalf of the Committee.
Following presentation of the Monmouthshire Farm School Endowment Trust Fund report, Members were invited to ask questions:
Monmouthshire Farm School Endowment Trust Fund
A Member of the Monmouthshire Farm School Endowment Trust Fund Committee provided feedback that the accounts were reviewed by the Committee adding that an item of debt had been completely paid.
Clarification was provided by the Audit Wales Officer that the Auditor General certifies the accounts after they have been approved.
A Member noted this is a small fund, part of Coleg Gwent estate and queried why it is being operated independently from that and questioned the benefits to recipients to justify the administration. It was explained that applications are received from students e.g. starting their courses they may need laptops, equine equipment or chainsaws. Set amounts are used as guidance, usually a third of the claim amount is granted. There is a set amount of funds available per annum that cannot be exceeded and is usually fully utilised. Representatives of Coleg Gwent attend meetings.
A Member asked for clarification on the limits to expenditure noting that a substantial surplus has been carried forward. It was explained that expenditure relies on volumes of applications and the period concerned was still under Covid restrictions hence volumes were materially reduced. Applications this year have returned to normal.
As detailed in the report recommendations, the independently examined financial statements for The Monmouthshire Farm School Endowment Trust Fund for 2021/22 were approved in conjunction with the Independent Examination Report for The Monmouthshire Farm School Endowment Trust Fund.