Consideration was given to a report presented by David Webster, Head of Internal Audit, on the role of Internal Audit, the work completed during the 2020/21 financial year and highlighted the key issues that had arisen. It provided the overall opinion of the Head of Internal Audit on the adequacy of the Council's control environment as well as the performance of the Internal Audit function during 2020/21.
Based upon internal audit work undertaken and taking into account other internal and external assurance processes, it had been possible to complete an assessment of the Council’s overall control environment. In the opinion of the Head of Internal Audit, the Council had overall an adequate and effective framework of governance, risk management and control during 2020/21 including the response to Covid-19.
Appendix 1 of the report submitted included:-
- Legislative requirements and Professional Standards
- The Head of Internal Audit’s annual opinion on the control framework, risk management and governance
- Resources and audit coverage during the year
- Summary of audit work undertaken during 2020/21 including both planned and responsive/investigatory work
- Summary of other evidence taken into account for control environment opinion
- Summary of audit opinions and recommendations made
- Internal Audit Performance Indicators
The emergency measures implemented in response to Covid-19 resulted in changes to procedures and control arrangements. Standards of governance and control were maintained during the year with risk management being utilised to help manage the response.
Internal Audit had not issued any No Assurance audit opinions during the year and had given an opinion of Partial Assurance in 6 areas subject to audit, however, none were considered serious enough for inclusion in the Annual Governance Statement. Action plans had been agreed with management in respect of all final audit reports issues.
During the year, the Audit Team had supported the Finance Department for more than 235 days in the processing of Business Support Grant applications. There was also a substantial level of sickness absence within the Team with 70 days sickness being recorded. However, resource levels provided sufficient capacity to provide an adequate level of assurance and sufficient work was completed to enable the Head of Internal Audit to provide his overall opinion.
Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (PSIAS) required that an assessment of the Internal Audit function must be undertaken annually with an external assessment at least every 5 years; in 2020-21 an external assessment was completed which showed general conformance with the standards.
A Quality Assurance and Improvement Programme (QAIP) was put into place during 2020 with the results reported to the Audit Committee in March 2021. This showed delays because of the response to Covid-19 but 3 of the actions had been completed and 2 were in progress. One action would be completed in 2021. An updated QAIP, based on the external assessment, had been produced to maintain and increase the level of conformance within the Team. This had 12 Actions to Consider which would be actioned and monitored during 2021.
Discussion ensued on the report with issues raised/clarified around:-
· The number of audit days planned compared to the number actually undertaken had varied in some Directorates. This was partly due to scheduling/resources on the subject matter of the proposed audit and some delays due to Covid, however, there was nothing that had led to cause for concern
· Each audit opinion/recommendation had its own due by date agreed at the time of the audit. By the end of the financial year the vast majority of the recommendations had been implemented. This was an area supported by the Strategic Leadership Team
Resolved:- (1) That the Internal Audit work undertaken during the 2020/21 financial year and the key issues that had arisen therefrom be noted.
(2) That the overall opinion of the Head of Internal Audit on the adequacy and effectiveness of the framework of governance, risk management and control within the Council, be noted.