Agenda and draft minutes

Audit and Governance Committee - Wednesday 9th March 2022 5.30 pm

Venue: The Guildhall, Exeter

Contact: Sharon Sissons, Democratic Services Officer  Telephone 01392 265115 or email  sharon.sissons@exeter.gov.uk

Note: Due to the current social distancing restrictions brought about by the Corona Virus outbreak, any members of the public wishing to attend the meeting please contact the Democratic Services Team committee.services@exeter.gov.uk in advance as there is limited capacity for public attendance. If you have an enquiry regarding any items on this agenda, please contact Sharon Sissons, Democratic Services Officer on 01392 265115.  

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 172 KB

To approve and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 1 December 2021.

 

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting held on 1 December 2021 were taken as read, approved and signed by the Chair as correct.

2.

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.

 

Minutes:

No declarations of disclosable pecuniary interests were made.

 

 

3.

Audit Findings Report 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 10 MB

To consider the report of the External Auditors (Grant Thornton)

Minutes:

The Engagement Lead, Grant Thornton presented the audit findings arising from the statutory audit of the Council’s group and financial statements for the year ending 31 March 2021. The audit had been substantially completed and Grant Thornton were now able to proceed to issue an unqualified audit opinion for the authority as set out in Appendix D of the circulated report. Additional work, including around the Council’s land and buildings valuation process had been raised, and an updated action plan at Appendix A had concluded those final areas of work. The Engagement Lead in responding to a Member’s question, confirmed that the Value for Money element of the audit work would be concluded within six weeks, with a report presented to the next meeting.

 

The Engagement Lead responded to the following Members’ questions:-

 

·         timescales for future audit work would continue to be discussed with the Council’s Strategic Management Board highlighting any further impact from the post scheduling of work from this year’s Audit. Government have recognised the increased levels of work required in this regard and have arranged an emergency consultation to consider proposed cost base changes to avoid the need for formal land and building valuations. The statutory deadline for completion of accounts for the coming year has been extended until November 2022.

 

·         an annual Disclosure of Interests made by the Council’s senior officers, now required a nil return and would be completed by those officers with decision making capacity, which included from Service Lead up to Director and Chief Executive & Growth Director level.

 

The Audit and Governance Committee noted the report on Audit Findings from the Exeter City Council (External Auditor), Grant Thornton.

 

4.

Internal Annual Audit Plan 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 242 KB

To consider the report of the Audit Managers.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Audit Manager (HP) presented the annual Internal Audit Plan for 2022/23, attached as an appendix and presented to the meeting, which required Member approval. The report provided confirmation that the appropriate risk management matrix had been used to formulate the plan, with feedback received from the Council’s Strategic Management Board on priorities and concerns as well as feedback from Members.

 

The Audit Manager responded to Members’ questions in the following terms:-

 

  • the scope of the Health and Safety audit was agreed with the Health and Safety Group and covered all related processes and procedures and relevant legislation. They would be asked to consider the Clean and Safe Policy in relation to council housing, with a request to include all of the areas suggested by the Member.

 

  • the scope of a Leisure audit covered the usual range of operations found in a leisure centre including health and safety and finance. An initial report had been produced for the Riverside Leisure Centre and future reports would be undertaken for each individual leisure centre.

 

The Director Finance clarified the role of Internal Audit and stated that monitoring of key financial controls were included to provide assurance about the internal control framework. Income would be a significant part of a leisure service audit, and whilst financial viability would be outside of the scope of internal audit work, it was included as a significant part of the One Exeter Programme.

 

  • the audit for Sport England and Wellbeing Exeter included the governance arrangements, as well as providing assurance of the internal control environment and all financial aspects of the partnership which related to the City Council.

 

The Director Finance concluded that where any partners were spending their finances directly, the City Council had no authority to review their procedures, but any funding received through Exeter City Council and spent on behalf of the partners would be included within the audit.

 

A Member wished to thank Internal Audit for the important role undertaken for the Council.

 

RESOLVED that the Audit and Governance Committee approve the annual Internal Audit Plan for 2022/23.

 

5.

Internal Audit Progress Report pdf icon PDF 224 KB

To consider the report of the Audit Managers.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Audit Manager (HP) presented the detail of Internal Audit work carried out during the period 1 October to 31 December 2021. A summary of progress against the Annual Audit Plan for 2021/22 was included at Appendix A to the report presented to the meeting, and an action plan of the governance issues identified had been included at Appendix B. Members were advised on the overall progress and that the Plan was on target with no significant issues associated with the audit work undertaken throughout the year. Additional time had been allocated in the 2022/23 plan for a further follow up on the Equality and Diversity audit.

 

In response to a Member’s question, relating to Appendix B and further clarification of the term ‘enhanced process in relation to scrutiny’ as detailed in the Internal Audit report on Corporate Governance, the Audit Manager advised that a copy of the report was emailed to Members on 11th January 2022. She sought approval to circulate a response to all Members of the Audit and Governance Committee.

 

RESOLVED that: the Internal Audit progress report for the third quarter of the year to 2021/22 be noted.

 

6.

Code of Corporate Governance 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 219 KB

To consider the report of the Director of Finance.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Director Finance presented the report, which set out an overview of the proposed Code of Corporate Governance for 2022/23, and confirmed there had been no changes this year to the Code. The document, which underpinned the Annual Governance Statement (AGS) set out the Governance arrangements for the Council, and performance against which is set out in the Annual Governance Statement which would be presented at the next meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee.

 

The Director Finance also responded to a number of issues raised by a Member which included potentially extending the scope of the work of the Code in relation to the governance arrangements and partnership working. He undertook to work together with Internal Audit throughout the year and would offer a further update of the Code, during the next financial year. The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) had recognised the need for more guidance around governance arrangements for local authority companies. A draft Internal Audit report on partnerships had included arrangements for more informal meetings, including the Council Housing and Development Advisory Group (CHAD) and the governance relationship with the Council’s external partner companies. The Code of Corporate Governance offered statutory guidance, but there was  always the opportunity to tailor that to need, and reflect that local authorities worked in ever more complicated ways and therefore considered that the arrangements were covered within the Code of Corporate guidance.

 

RECOMMENDED that the Audit and Governance Committee support and Council approve the Code of Corporate Governance for 2022/23.

 

7.

Review of Corporate Governance Risk Register pdf icon PDF 232 KB

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

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Audit Manager (HP) presented the report which advised the Audit and Governance Committee of the Council’s risk management process and provided an update of the Corporate Risk Register to enable the Committee to monitor and review the Council’s risks. There were no new risks added or deleted from the Risk Register during the last quarter, but updates had been provided from the Strategic Management Board (SMB).

 

The Director Finance replied to a Member’s enquiry that a dedicated Net Zero Risk Register would be presented to this meeting. He confirmed that interviews had taken place recently and the team would be in place shortly. He anticipated that the Service Lead for Net Zero and her team would be in a position to report to the next meeting of the Audit and Governance Committee in July.

 

The Audit Manager presented the following responses to a Member’s questions obtained from the lead officer associated with monitoring each risk.

 

·      Risk 2: Business Continuity:

The Ukraine situation had escalated since the Council’s Risk Register was reviewed and prepared. It was noted that adequate mitigation in respect of cyber-attacks had resulted in the removal from the Corporate Risk Register. There was no specific or different cyber security risk identified over and above the probing of the Council’s systems and phishing attacks that happen on a daily basis. The Council’s security measures were constantly reviewed and improved and these included ICT technical controls, Council awareness and training. The Council had taken part in training with Strata colleagues from East Devon and Teignbridge Councils at the National Cyber Security Centre to test cyber security capability and defences. Teignbridge and Exeter Councils had also secured funding from the Local Government Association and appointed industry experts to undertake a systematic review of cyber security arrangements which will be completed within the next few months.

 

·      Risk 3: Carbon Neutral 2030:

A question on the future presentation of a dedicated Risk Register for Carbon Net Zero 2030 had been answered earlier in the meeting. Members were advised that the Net Zero team were waiting on the City Council’s Carbon Reduction Plan from South West Energy and the Environment Group (SWEEG) and for a GreenHouse Gas (GHG) baseline inventory, (commissioned from SWEEG) which once approved will form a baseline from which the corporate Risk Register will be developed;

 

·      in demonstrating how the Exeter Net Zero Plan 2030 goal will be achieved, officers would need to assess the situation once all information from SWEEG regarding the Council’s position had been received and digested. In relation to the external Net Zero work, Exeter City Futures would produce a clear goal oriented development plan with the aim of a relaunch and a clear position statement, which was anticipated in early summer, and

 

·      the City Council’s Carbon Reduction Plan, commissioned from SWEEG, will include Scope 3 emissions and any action plan would include the direct actions the Council could take in relation to Scope 3 emissions, which was likely to initially focus on the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.