Agenda and draft minutes

This meeting will be held virtually via Zoom and streamed live. The link for this can be found by clicking on the meeting date.Note that this agenda was republished on 8 January 2021, Governance and Audit Committee - Thursday, 14th January, 2021 4.00 pm

Venue: This will be a meeting held in line with The Local Authorities & Police & Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority & Police & Crime Panel Meetings) (England & Wales) Regulations 2020

Contact: Democratic Services  01775 764626

Link: View Facebook Livestream of the meeting

Items
No. Item

23.

Apologies for absence.

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence.

24.

Declaration of Interests

(Where a Councillor has a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest the Councillor must declare the interest and leave the meeting without participating in any discussion or making a statement on the item, except where a Councillor is permitted to remain as a result of a grant of dispensation).

 

Minutes:

Councillor Newton declared an interest as a member of the board of PSPSL.

25.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 262 KB

To sign as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 26 November 2020 (copy enclosed).

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting of the Governance and Audit Committee held on 26 November 2020 were signed by the Chairman as a correct record.

 

The Chairman asked the Strategic Finance and Compliance Manager for an update regarding the follow up meeting between SHDC officers and the auditors relating to the Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA) fee on Page 9 of the minutes.  No further responses had been received but an update would be provided for a later meeting.

 

The Chairman also asked for an update on who had overall responsibility for one of the actions for the Information Governance Officer.  The Strategic Finance and Compliance Manager advised that an update would be provided to the Committee as soon as available.

26.

2019/20 Annual Accounts Audit

Verbal update by the Deputy Head of Financial Services

Minutes:

The Committee received a verbal update from the Deputy Head of Financial Services in relation to the 2019/20 Annual Accounts Audit.

 

The Deputy Head of Financial Services informed the Committee of the following:

 

·         Following a meeting between the Deputy Head of Financial Services, the Deputy S151 Officer and Ernst Young (EY) confirmation had been received that resources were booked for the week commencing 25 January 2021 to review the audit queries responded to by SHDC during January.

·         There were also some audit areas where work completed by EY was subject to review by their management.  This review could generate further queries, but these could not be quantified.  One of the areas for review was pensions.  The revised report had been received in December, however due to the immaterial value of the changes the decision was taken not to amend the accounts to reflect the revised pensions figures.

·         The planned date for completion and sign off of the audit was the end of February 2021.

 

Members asked that in view of the uncertainty of the current situation were there any plans to review the frequency around the triennial review of pensions. The Strategic Finance and Compliance Manager advised that there were no plans to change the frequency of the review.

 

AGREED:

 

That the update be noted.

 

Councillor Newton arrived at 16.06.

27.

Housing Benefit Subsidy Claim - 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 216 KB

To report the outcome of the 2019/20 Housing Benefit subsidy claim audit (report of the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Strategies and Partnerships and the Executive Director Commercialisation (S151) enclosed).

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Strategies and Partnerships, and the Executive Director – Commercialisation (S151) which considered the outcome of the 2019/20 Housing Benefit Subsidy claim audit.

 

The Revenues and Benefits Operational Manager informed the Committee that the Council paid out £13,678,610 in Housing Benefit and received £13,630,425 in subsidy from Central Government.

 

The Committee was also informed that during the audit the Council was disregarding War Disablement and War Widows Pension when calculating entitlement to Housing Benefit.  This decision was over 10 years old and it was recommended that the decision be reviewed and consideration be given to whether or not the Council wished to continue it.

 

AGREED:

 

1)    That the 2019/20 Housing Benefit Subsidy Audit report be noted; and

 

2)    That the Council be recommended to continue to disregard from the calculation of housing benefit all income prescribed in the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (War Pension Disregards) Regulations 2007.

28.

Treasury Management Policy & Treasury Management Strategy Statement, Minimum Revenue Provision Policy Statement and Annual Investment Strategy 2021/22. pdf icon PDF 196 KB

To provide pre-decision scrutiny to the strategy being proposed (report of the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Strategy and Partnerships and the Executive Director Commercialisation (S151) enclosed).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Strategy and Partnerships and the Executive Director – Commercialisation (S151) which set out the Treasury Management Policy and Treasury Management Strategy Statement, Minimum Revenue Provision Policy Statement and Annual Investment Strategy 2021/22.

 

The Treasury and Investment Manager informed the Committee that the statutory document being presented was at a draft stage, as the future Capital Programme had not yet been finalised and approved by Council. Once this was known, the information contained within the strategy document shown at Appendix B would be amended and considered by Cabinet prior to submission to Council for approval before the commencement of the 2021/22 financial year.

 

AGREED:

 

That the report be noted.

29.

Progress Report on Internal Audit Activity pdf icon PDF 93 KB

To examine the progress made between 11 November 2020 and 5 January 2021 in relation to the completion of the revised Annual Internal Audit Plan for 2020/21 (report of the Head of Internal Audit enclosed).

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Head of Internal Audit for South Holland District Council which examined the progress made between 11 November 2020 and 5 January 2021 in relation to the completion of the revised Annual Internal Audit Plan for 2020/21.

 

The Internal Audit Manager addressed members concerns in relation to Performance Measures. There had been difficulties with the contractor in finalising and moving some of the work forward, for various reasons, but the Committee were given assurance that this would improve.

 

The Internal Audit Manager informed the Committee that she would send over the final version of the Income report after the meeting.

 

The Internal Audit Manager informed the Committee that there were no executive summaries to be brought forward in terms of progress, however one report had been finalised since the agenda had been published and an update on the findings was provided.

 

The Governance and Audit Committee were informed that 5 important recommendations were raised.  Of the 5 recommendations, 3 related to physical security around cheques that were being sent to SHDC through the Customer Contact Centre.

 

·         Recommendations 1-3 related to tighter security around the opening of post, the documentation of cheques that were sent to the Council and the security of cheques as they come into the Finance department. There is a deadline of 1 February 2021 to resolve these issues.

 

·         Recommendation 4 was in relation to the Suspense Account. It had been noted that payments in the Suspense Account had not been investigated since April 2020.  The Internal Audit Manage informed the Committee that a more regular review was needed.

 

·         Recommendation 5 noted that once the payments within the Suspense Account  had been correctly allocated, there would be an independent check undertaken.

 

The Chairman asked, with regard to recommendations 1-3 in relation to tighter controls, whether everything was in place to meet the deadline date, or would this need to be extended?  The Internal Audit Manager informed the committee that the dates represented best practice.  The Auditee had indicated that these dates would be achievable. 

 

AGREED:

 

That the progress of the Internal Audit Plan of work for 2020/21 be noted.

30.

Follow Up Report on Internal Audit Recommendations. pdf icon PDF 70 KB

To provide members with the position on the progress made by management in implementing agreed Internal Audit recommendations as at 5 January 2021 (report of the Head of Internal Audit enclosed).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Head of Internal Audit for South Holland District Council which provided members with the position on the progress made by Management in implementing the agreed Internal Audit recommendations as at 5 January 2021.

 

The Internal Audit Manager provided the Governance and Audit Committee with additional information which had not been available at the point of agenda publication.  The following information was provided:

 

·         With regard to the first 2 urgent priority recommendations on page 87 under SH2002, evidence had been received to show that these had been completed and closed. 

 

·         On page 89 under SH2015 there were 4 recommendations which were noted as being “in discussion with Management”.  The following updates were provided:

 

·         Recommendation 1 – The following update had been provided by Management:- to achieve this recommendation it was established that a new domain controller was required as well as an upgrade to existing infrastructure.  It was therefore requested that the deadline for delivery be delayed until 31 March 2021 to facilitate the additional work.

 

·         Recommendation 2 – It was felt that the Facilities and ICT Teams were best placed to implement this – the deadline was extended to 31 March 2021 to accommodate this change;

 

·         Recommendation 3 – This piece of work would require collaboration between PSPS and SHDC.  It had not been possible to set up relevant inspections due to restrictions as a result of the Covid pandemic. It was proposed that the deadline be deferred to 30 July 2021.

 

·         Recommendation 4 – This had been passed onto the SHDC Assets team.  A purchase order had been raised for this to take place.  A date was being awaited with a deadline in place of 31 March 2021.

 

Members raised the following issues:

 

o   For item SH2015 and SH2008, why were there new outstanding items being added which were not previously identified?  Members were advised that this information would be supplied to them in due course.

 

o   Although it was recognised that the Covid pandemic was having an impact on many areas of the Council’s services, the Chairman requested that meetings to discuss outstanding recommendations continue, and that where there were other reasons for delays, that these be identified.  The Internal Audit Manager assured the Chairman that this would be taken into consideration, and that the majority of reasons for delay were genuine. However, where inspections were required to take place, there were delays as a result of government guidelines around social distancing, to ensure safe working practices as a result of the Covid pandemic.

 

o   For recommendations relating to the Head of Financial Services PSPS on page 85 of the agenda, was the deadline of 1 April 2021 for formal signoff realistic? Members were advised that this would be clarified and the Committee would be updated accordingly.

 

o   An explanation was requested as to the delay with the Purchase Order exemption list (on page 85 of the agenda).  The Internal Audit Manager stated that she would investigate  ...  view the full minutes text for item 30.

31.

Governance and Audit Committee Self Assessment pdf icon PDF 152 KB

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) document on “audit committee’s practical guidance for local authorities and police” sets out the guidance on the function and the operation of audit committees.  It represents CIPFA’s view of best practice and incorporates the position statements previously issued.

 

The Governance and Audit Committee has been undertaking self-assessments since 2008 and members will discuss the attached CIPFA Audit Committee Self Assessment (report of the Head of Internal Audit enclosed).

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Head of Internal Audit for South Holland District Council which set out the Audit Committee Self-Assessment Exercise.

 

The Governance and Audit Committee agreed that a brief report to Annual Council, detailing the work of the Committee, would be beneficial to highlight the work, role and purpose of the Committee across the authority.

 

The Committee also agreed that any training requirements would be fed back through the Chairman, Head of Internal Audit and the Strategic Finance and Compliance Manager.

 

AGREED:

 

That the report be noted and the checklist at Appendix 1 of the report be updated to ensure that it was still an accurate reflection.

32.

Governance and Audit Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 128 KB

To set out the Work Programme of the Governance and Audit Committee (report of the Executive Manager – Governance (Deputy Monitoring Officer) enclosed).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Executive Manager, Governance (Deputy Monitoring Officer), which set out the Work Programme of the Governance and Audit Committee.

 

AGREED:

 

That the report and content of the Work Programme be noted.

33.

Any other items which the Chairman decides are urgent.

 

 

NOTE:            No other business is permitted unless by reason of special circumstances, which shall be specified in the minutes, the Chairman is of the opinion that the item(s) should be considered as a matter of urgency.

Minutes:

There were none.