(Chief Internal Auditor) To consider the attached report (AGC-003-2019/20).
The Chief Internal Auditor presented a report on the Annual Governance Statement for 2018/19.
The Chief Internal Auditor reminded the Committee that the Council’s Statutory Statement of Accounts had been prepared in accordance with the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015. Within the regulations, and in accordance with defined ‘proper practice’, there was a mandatory requirement to publish an Annual Governance Statement. These arrangements were designed to provide the Council with assurance regarding the adequacy of its governance arrangements and identifying where those arrangements needed to be improved.
The Chief Internal Auditor reported that the Annual Governance Statement had identified progress on two significant governance issues during 2018/19, these being:
(a) the General Data Protection Regulation; and
(b) the Transformation Programme.
The Chief Internal Auditor informed the Committee that four areas had been identified for improvement or monitoring during 2019/20, these being:
(i) Business Continuity Planning;
(ii) the Economic Climate, and in particular the continuing uncertainty over Brexit;
(iii) the compliance of the Council’s statutory posts with relevant legislation; and
(iv) the close down of the Council’s accounts.
The Chief Internal Auditor added a further common theme had been identified in that the Council’s scheme of delegation needed to remain robust and fit for purpose throughout the current restructure process.
The Chief Internal Auditor stated that the Annual Governance Statement demonstrated that the Council had sound governance arrangements in place which continued to work well in practice for 2018/19. However, the Council was not complacent as evidenced by the areas identified for monitoring and improvement in the coming year.
Ms N Nanayakkara emphasised that capacity, capability or resource issues were frequently quoted by Officers in Internal Audit reports, and these issues should be considered by the Committee to ensure that the Council was not in a similar position next year. It would also have been useful to have had sight of a work plan indicating how the Council was going to deal with these issues.
The Chief Internal Auditor acknowledged the comments made and referenced the business resilience issues that had been raised at the start of the meeting, and the need to ensure that a robust end-of-year Accounts process was in place which had both been identified as areas requiring improvement in the future. In respect of the capacity issues, vacant posts were being recruited to and Internal Audit was monitoring the situation closely. The Interim Strategic Director reassured the Committee that the capacity of the Finance department was sufficient, and that the Council was already working with the External Auditors to resolve the issues identified and make lasting improvements to the processes. The Leader of Council added that the Cabinet was working closely with the Chief Executive and the new Leadership Team to resolve the capacity issues and an update to the Committee would be provided in the future.
The Committee was reluctant to approve the Annual Governance Statement, preferring to note it instead, and wished for the capacity issues frequently identified by Officers to be considered as well.
(1) That the Annual Governance Statement for 2018/19 be noted and attention be drawn to the need to further consider the capacity constraints being experienced throughout the Council.