Agenda and draft minutes

Audit and Standards Committee - Tuesday 23rd April 2024 10:00am

Venue: Oak Room, County Buildings, Stafford. View directions

Contact: Liam Archer  Email: liam.archer@staffordshire.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

68.

Declarations of Interest

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest raised on this occasion.

69.

Minutes of the meeting held on 19 March 2024 pdf icon PDF 152 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Resolved – That the minutes of the meeting held on 19 March 2024 be agreed and signed by the Chair.

70.

External Audit - Verbal Update

·         Financial Year 2021/22

·         Financial Year 2022/23

 

Report of Ernst and Young

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a verbal update from the Chief Accountant on the current external audit situation. Further information would be provided at a later committee meeting.

 

The Committee were reminded of the consultation and proposal to deal with the external audit backlog, and that the Council were still awaiting the outcome from this.

 

The proposed backstop date for the unaudited 2021/22 and 2022/23 accounts was noted as the 30th September 2024, however this was awaiting confirmation following the consultation.

 

Resolved – that the update be noted.

71.

Annual Report of the work of the Audit and Standards Committee pdf icon PDF 241 KB

Joint Report of the Deputy Chief Executive and Director for Corporate Services, and the Director of Finance

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members considered the draft report on the Committee’s work during 2023/24 which particularly referred to their role in overseeing the Council’s governance arrangements through consideration of the specific documents such as the Annual Governance Statement and overseeing the Annual Audit Plan and considering reports stemming from that Plan. 

 

Members commented on the vast array of work undertaken by the Committee during the previous year, noting that this would be the last Committee under the current Director of Finance (Section 151 Officer). The Committee were provided with an update on the new appointment for the Director of Finance.

 

The Committee discussed the recruitment of an Independent Member to the Audit and Standards Committee and it was confirmed that the role would be remunerated in line with independent members on Standards panels and that further conversations were ongoing.

 

It was highlighted that the report would be progressed to Full Council, subject to the Committee’s approval, following the same format as previous years. The format of the document would be reviewed for the 2024/25 annual report. More detailed information could be found within the Annual Governance Statement and Internal Audit Plan documents.

 

Resolved – that the report be approved for submission to Full Council.

72.

Staffordshire County Council and Pension Fund - External Audit Plan 2023/24 pdf icon PDF 617 KB

Report of KPMG

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report from the External Auditors on the External Audit Plan and Strategy for 2023/24.

 

The report sets out the risk assessment and planned audit approach for the Audit of the Council’s financial accounts, which are required to be presented in accordance with audit standards and legislation.

 

The Committee noted the significant risks, including valuation of land and buildings; management override of controls and valuation of post-retirement benefit obligations, along with a planned response.

 

Members commented on the significant increase in statutory Audit fees outlined by KPMG and sought assurance that timely audits would be provided in comparison to previous years. In response, it was noted that fees were set by the Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA) and that the external auditors were committed to delivering their work on the timelines provided in the Plan.

 

Members further commented on the risk highlighted around land and buildings and sought clarification why this was rated as the top risk. It was clarified that the risks outlined were not in any particular order, and furthermore it did not mean that valuations were required on an annual basis.

 

It was queried what would change between the draft report issued to the Committee and the final report. Members noted that it was not expected for the risks to change, however the value for money information would be included in the final iteration of the report. Pre-analysis was done on risks to the Council through conversations with senior officers, work done to date and documentation through meetings.

 

Resolved – that the report and update be noted.

73.

Internal Audit Plan 2024/25 pdf icon PDF 199 KB

Report of the Director of Finance

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report and presentation from the Director of Finance and Section 151 Officer on the proposed Internal Audit Strategy and Plan for 2024/25, commenting on the statutory requirement on the Council to have an effective audit function.

 

The Plan focused on the Council’s key priorities and top-rated risk areas, setting out a programme of audits and counter fraud activities including proactive and reactive work over the year whilst maintaining flexibility and resources to respond to issues that may arise throughout the year. Any major revisions would be reported to future meetings of the Audit and Standards Committee.

 

Members noted the following ten top risk areas/reviews to be assessed by Internal Audit in 2024/25  as being:

 

-      New Care System

-      Highways Transformation Programme

-      SEND

-      Cyber Assurance

-      Digital Strategy and Transformation

-      Delivering Good Governance

-      Corporate File Plan

-      Corporate Improvements

-      Children and Families New Operating Model and Response to Children’s Services Ofsted Inspection

-      Commercial Services (Procurement)

 

Reference was made to the direct linkage of the top risk areas to the Delivery Plan for 2024/25 and the further reviews which also correlated with the Corporate Improvement Programme. It was further noted that key financial audits and governance audits were included in the Plan. Continued focus on school governance and financial controls was highlighted due to the significant increase in the number of limited assurance opinions awarded in 2023/24 for schools.

 

The Committee noted that the Audit Plan had a strong emphasis on strong financial management and controls, with a continued focus on key digital projects including the Corporate File Plan, Artificial Intelligence and other enhancements. Time would be allocated to provide insight into key processes operating within Children’s Services, and further attention given to key partnerships. Also, the Plan gave continued focus on the Council’s procurement and management activities, in particular compliance with the new Procurement Act.

 

Details were given of the resourcing of the Audit Plan, noting that sufficient resources were available to deliver the Plan, including the ability to procure the required level of support from the private sector using existing framework contracts made available to the service.

 

Members sought clarity on the multiple references to ICT within the Audit Plan and how this was being covered by the days allocated. In response, it was confirmed that the 3% figure quoted related to pure ICT work within the service itself, the other specific directorate ICT systems audit work were absorbed into the Directorate audit plans.

 

Members further commented on the work within Schools and clarification was provided that currently, the Internal Audit service do not audit Academies, only maintained schools.

 

In response to a query on Procurement, it was confirmed that a set of key headlines would be drafted on the differences within the new Procurement Act and brought to a future meeting of the Committee for them to be aware of.

 

Further information was requested by the Committee on the use of AI to detect fraud. It was confirmed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 73.

74.

Forward Plan for the Audit and Standards Committee pdf icon PDF 149 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee noted the Forward Plan for the Audit and Standards Committee, highlighting items on future agendas.

 

Resolved – that the Forward Plan for the Audit and Standards Committee be noted.

75.

Exclusion of the Public

The Chairman to move:

 

“That the public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business which involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in the paragraphs of Part 1 of Schedule 12A (as amended) of the Local Government Act 1972 as indicated below”.

 

 

Part Two

(reports in this section are exempt)

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Resolved – That the public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business which involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in the paragraphs of Part 1 of Schedule 12A (as amended) of the Local Government Act 192 as indicated below.

76.

Exempt Minutes of the meeting held on 19 March 2024

77.

Children and Families - ChildView System (Limited Assurance)

(Exemption paragraph 3)

78.

Children and Families - EHCP Hub System Security Review (Limited Assurance)

(Exemption paragraph 3)