Agenda and minutes

Virtual, Audit and Governance Committee - Wednesday 16th September 2020 5.30 pm

Venue: Rennes Room, Civic Centre, Paris Street, Exeter

Contact: Sharon Sissons, Democratic Services Officer  Telephone 01392 265115 or email

No. Item



To receive apologies for absence from Committee Members.




Apologies were received from Councillors Pattison and Warwick.





Minutes pdf icon PDF 243 KB

To approve and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 22 July 2020.



The minutes of the meeting held 22 July 2020 were taken as read and approved as correct for signing by the Chair at the earliest possible convenience.



Declaration of Interests

Councillors are reminded of the need to declare any discloseable pecuniary interests that relate to business on the agenda and which have not already been included in the register of interests, before any discussion takes place on the item. Unless the interest is sensitive, you must also disclosure the nature of the interest.  In accordance with the Council’s Code of Conduct, you must then leave the room and must not participate in any further discussion on the item.  Councillors requiring clarification should seek the advice of the Monitoring Officer prior to the day of the meeting.



No declarations of disclosable pecuniary interests were made.




External Audit Progress Report pdf icon PDF 439 KB

To consider the report of the Council’s External Auditor, Grant Thornton.


Jackson Murray, the Engagement Lead from Grant Thornton, the Council’s External Auditors, updated Members on the Audit deliverables and key matters of their progress including the financial statements audit, the value for money conclusion and certification of the housing benefits subsidy claim. He advised that the draft financial statement was received on 31 July 2020, before the revised national publication deadline of 31 August 2020, which had enabled their audit team to commence selecting samples for testing. It was anticipated the audited financial statement would be issued by the 30 November 2020 target date.


Covid-19 continued to impact on their work which was predominantly undertaken remotely and whilst there were benefits, some aspects of the work were taking longer to complete. The progress report included reference to a number of publications including a National Audit guide for Audit Committees on financial reporting and management during Covid-19 as well as the new National Audit Office Code of Practice for the 2020/21 period and he would update Committee Members accordingly at the earliest opportunity. A Member suggested two of the reports referred to in Grant Thornton’s report, from Localis, an independent not for profit think tank, entitled ‘Building for Renewal: Kick-starting the C19 Housing Recovery’, and a ‘Place Based Growth’ report produced in collaboration with the County Councils’ Network merited further consideration and he suggested an urgent cross party exploration by this Council of a number of the issues identified.  Members considered that there were many interesting themes in the reports and suggested holding a Members’ Briefing, as well as raising at a future Scrutiny Committee or the Executive.


The External Auditor’s Engagement Lead also referred to the recent publication of the Redmond Review which considered the local government audit market and provided a summary of its key themes and main recommendations to strengthen governance which included:-


·         the creation of an Office of Local Audit and Regulation to be responsible for the regulation of the local audit market and include a number of functions performed by the Public Sector Audit Appointments Ltd,(PSAA) who currently oversee the appointment of external auditors.

·         formalising the liaison meeting process between external auditors and senior officers within the local authority.

·         External Audit reporting annually to the local authority and not necessarily just through the Audit Committee process.

·         consideration of moving the accounts reporting timetable back to the 30 September.

·         recognition that audit fees were too modest for the complexity of the work entailed, particularly around the preparation of the financial statement.

·         the accounting body, CIPFA, should review the accounting

·         the creation of a summary document aside from the financial statements to the accounts, which would be audited to offer greater accessibility for members of the public.


The Director Finance advised that he had attended a webinar event on the Redmond Review and the discussion had included the prospect of the inclusion of an independent member who would be a suitably qualified accountant to sit on the Audit Committee of each local authority. Whilst, audit work would  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28.


Internal Audit Progress Report pdf icon PDF 229 KB

To consider the report of the Audit Managers

Additional documents:


The Audit Manager (HP) presented the report on internal audit work carried out during the period 1 April to 30 June 2020. Members’ attention was drawn to the progress against the Audit Plan, where a number of factors directly related to Covid-19 had made an impact on the delivery against the Plan. There had been considerable levels of unplanned work, as well as Internal Audit staff assisting with reactive work in other parts of the Council. This included assisting with the administration of Covid business grants, carrying out inventory checks and stock take of the city’s leisure centres in preparation of their transfer back to the Council. Regular audit work had presented a greater challenge as many service areas had to focus on critical work with the consequence that Internal Audit would not be able to deliver the plan of work agreed and therefore amendments to the plan were being proposed.


Members’ attention was drawn to Appendix A, which set out the progress against the work carried out to date and the amendments which were highlighted in the report. Appendix B included an update on significant governance issues presented in the Annual Governance Statement and the Audit Manager reported there had been no changes. Appendix C set out the conclusion of an Internal Audit report in relation to the Pinhoe Community Hub. The report had been made available to Members as per the order of the Information Commissioner and the Council’s External Auditors.


The Director Finance responded to a Member who expressed her disappointment that correspondence, which would have formed part of the enquiry had not been included in the report. The Member suggested that a more robust investigation should have been carried out and was concerned over the handling and perfunctory investigation. Her concern related to the appropriateness of the financial arrangements made in the setting up of the project, rather than the creation of a much welcomed project to build a community hub in Pinhoe. The Director Finance assured Members that the circulated report was, as produced by Internal Audit in its entirety, with the names of those individuals who had raised the matter, being redacted so the report could be presented in the public domain. The Member, in raising her concerns, sought assurances that the original letter should be made available. The Director Finance stated that the funding request had not been in place at the outset, and a separate request for £100,000 to build a community hub was approved at full Council. A study of the robustness of the grants process had now been made, which had led to the grants review and a new system put in place. However, he would speak to the Monitoring Officer and report back to Members.


In response to advance questions from a Member in relation to the update on the Pinhoe Community Hub, as set out in Appendix C of the report, the following responses were provided from the Director Finance:-


·      In terms of the author of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29.


Review of Corporate Governance Risk Register pdf icon PDF 230 KB

To consider the report of the Chief Executive & Growth Director.



Additional documents:


The Audit Manager (HP) referred to the Audit and Governance Committee’s responsibility for monitoring and reviewing the Corporate Risk Register and in presenting an update advised that there were no changes to the Corporate Risk Register since the last meeting.


Following a request from a Member, the Audit Manager (HP) agreed to update the Risk Register on the lines suggested to improve the presentation of the detail.  The Director Finance responded to a Member’s concern about licenced craft on the Exeter Canal and River Exe.  Although there was no reference in the Risk Register, he would contact the City’s Harbour Master and colleagues in Environmental Health to enquire about the social distancing controls and checks imposed on passenger licensed craft using the Exeter Canal and River Exe and update the Member.


The Audit and Governance Committee noted the contents of the Risk Register.