To note the update on progress on the Internal Audit Plan for 2020/21.
The Committee received a report update them on progress on the annual Internal Audit Plan from April – December 2020.
Sally Hendricks, Head of Audit and Risk Management, reported that, progress
against the 2020/21 Internal Audit Plan was set out in Appendix 1 and as expected
was behind original schedule due to the Covid-19 pandemic which had caused some delays. The current Covid-19 position had also resulted in deferral of a number of audits planned for quarter 4 into 2021/22.
The report also covered that previous areas of concerns, officer expenses sand purchasing cards, had been revisited and it was found the controls were now effective. Hannah Beckett had undertaken a great deal of work in regard to the purchasing cards to help ensure compliance with the purchasing card controls including a large scale training program.
There were only three areas with major recommendations which were shown in the table at section 3.5 of the report.
A business plan to pilot additional funding counter fraud had been agreed
in May 2020 with the assistance of external counter fraud teams.
Covid-19 had presented difficulties for fraud investigation due to restrictions placed on social distancing which prevented face to face contact therefore the pilot hadn’t been progressed as quickly as intended. However, some initial steps in the pilot were now being taken. Work on the social housing waiting list was due to start in February 2021.
Arising from the Committees comments and questions, the following points were made:
· Councillors were grateful for the work undertaken throughout the pandemic.
· A recruitment process was undertaken for a senior auditor which had been unsuccessful. However, a very good temporary senior audit had already been taken on and would be with the council till June 2021. The post would be readvertised in due course.
· The delay in delivering the audits was not due to capacity within the audit team, but was with the individual services being unable to devote their time to the audit process due to the pandemic and were under a lot of pressure to deliver services. For example, in the People directorate there were areas where the current workload was a higher priority than the audit work.
· The resource in place was sufficient to carry out the work at present.
· Remotely auditing schools was not something that had been undertaken before and was presenting some difficulties. One school had offered to help be a pilot school and help test out the remote auditing.
· In regard to a longer-term plan, the audits would roll into next year’s plan, and agreement would be sought with SMTs and DMTs regarding when these could be undertaken.
· It wasn’t believed that there would be a large number of missing audits due to the pandemic.
· There were annual audits that were undertaken annually. There were some being pushed back, but these would only be pushed back until April and the department were aware that they needed to be undertaken by a specific date.
· It wasn’t expected that departments would use Covid as an excuse to push back or move an audit. Areas that had been heavily affected by Covid had been very helpful and open in regard to the audit process.
· It was important there was a good balance between undertaking the audits and services being able to continue their covid response.
· The Independent Member was pleased about the purchasing card process and was grateful for the hard work undertaken.
· Deprivation of Liberties were the controls in place for when people were in care for a long period of time and ensure checks were in place, to ensure their interests were being safeguarded.
· New measures and process had had to be implemented very quickly to deal with the pandemic response. It was thought that the control was still there, but it was being met in a different way.
· In the future it was expected that more staff would be working from home rather than in the office which may create more challenges.
The Committee noted the update on progress on the Internal Audit Plan for 2020/21.