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AUDIT COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 21st September, 2015.

 

Present:  Councillor K. Hatton (Chairman); Mr. P.R. Lewis (Vice-Chairman); Councillors J. Drysdale and K.P. Mahoney.

 

Also present: Mr. S. Barry (Wales Audit Office), Mr. J. Golding, Ms. L. Hallett and Ms. C. Jones (Grant Thornton UK LLP).

 

 

401     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE – 

 

These were received from Councillors J.C. Bird and Mrs. P. Drake.

 

 

402     MINUTES – 

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 13th July, 2015 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

403     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST – 

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

404     REGIONAL EDUCATION CONSORTIA: REPORTS BY ESTYN AND WALES AUDIT OFFICE – SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING), 20TH JULY, 2015 AND CABINET, 7TH SEPTEMBER, 2015 (REF) –

 

Cabinet and Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) had, on 7th September and 20th July 2015 respectively, considered reports on the conclusions of Estyn and the Wales Audit Office (WAO) following their visits to the four education consortia.

 

The report had outlined that Estyn and the WAO had visited the four regional education consortia between November 2014 and January 2015 to report on the progress being made by the regional consortia to provide school improvement services.

 

The WAO report had concluded “that after an uncertain start, the foundations for the regional school improvement services are being established and there were positive signs of progress but remaining weaknesses are hindering the development of the whole system and the effective governance and financial management of regional consortia”. 

 

Both reports contained recommendations for consortia, Local Authorities and Welsh Government. 

 

In considering the references, Audit Committee noted that recommendations as contained in the report were generic to all Local Authorities, and the view was expressed that the Committee should be advised how the report and its recommendations related to the Vale of Glamorgan Council and its Audit Committee. 

 

Accordingly, it was

 

RESOLVED – T H A T a further report be brought before a future meeting of the Audit Committee outlining:

 

(i)         The Vale of Glamorgan Council issues for the Audit Committee to consider;

 

(ii)        Central South Consortium issues for the Audit Committee to consider;

 

(iii)       How the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Audit Committee related to Rhondda Cynon Taf’s Audit Function in relation to the Consortium.

 

Reason for decision

 

For the further information of the Committee.

 

 

405     WALES AUDIT OFFICE REPORT: IS THE DISABLED FACILITIES GRANT SERVICE PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE RESPONSE TO USER NEEDS (MD) –

 

Committee received a report on the results of the review of Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) undertaken by the Wales Audit Office (WAO) during 2014/15. 

 

The review focused on whether the Council’s DFG service was providing an effective response to user needs. 

 

The WAO concluded that “the Council has met its original objective of improving the speed of delivery of DFGs but evaluation focuses on a narrow range of information and service planning is not sufficiently strategic because:

 

  • The focus on time targets for key stages in the process has improved delivery times and there appears scope for further refinement of processes;
  • Performance evaluation has been based upon a narrow range of indicators and there is scope to utilise other service related data to provide a better picture of performance.
  • The Council lacks a strategic plan for the service and data review suggests a probable future reduction in the number of disabled facilities grants at a time when the Council forecast increasing demand.”

The report made four proposals for improvement:

  • P1: Implement a process review that assesses arrangements from the service user perspective and has regard to the implementation of change by other Councils
  • P2: Establish a broader range of measures that enable the effectiveness of the DFG service to be evaluated in terms of meeting user needs and the efficiency of resources being deployed as well as monitoring the speed of delivery
  • P3: Adopt “plain English” principles to assess revisions necessary to current guidance documents and future publications / advice for service users
  • P4: Introduce measures that can be used to establish a corporate understanding of the way in which the service and others contribute to supporting independent living.

Discussions ensued on the contents of the report, including the following:

 

-         It was agreed that one of the objectives of DFGs was to permit people to live in their own homes for longer. 

-         Did the applicants feel that the DFG works had improved their lives?

-         Providing large, complicated documents to potential applicants for DFGs was not appropriate.  Simple overviews of the process would be more effective.

-         Improvements to the way DFG applications are dealt with had been impressive and the Council was now in the second quartile of Welsh Authorities. 

-         The budget for DFGs had recently been increased although there was potential for more certainty in budget setting and there was a concern that budget increases were potentially not sufficient to meet increasing demand.

-         There was a need to investigate how the DFG performance figures could be linked to other of the Council’s Performance figures.

-         In terms of assessing the effectiveness of an objective, i.e. to permit people to live in their own homes for longer, it would be necessary for baseline figures to be compiled.

-         Now that the Council was achieving an acceptable delivery time, it may be appropriate to consider the efficiency of the relevant staff.

It was appreciated that the Council was efficient when measuring the component parts of the DFG process.

-         The Chairman drew Committee’s attention to the final bullet point of Paragraph 11 of the report “service re-engineering – final stage process review undertaken January to March 2015”.  The Managing Director confirmed that the process had been undertaken. 

-         Committee was advised that other Councils reported performance figures regarding DFGs by exception.  It was suggested that this may be appropriate for the Vale.

-         A Member enquired as to what the Council attributed its improved performance to and was informed that it had not been as a result of increasing the budget – this had decreased over the years although the budget for actual DFGs had increased lately. 

 

Reasons for the improved performance had included:

-         The means test was now carried out earlier in the process.

-         Some of the assessments took place simultaneously.

-         There had been a move away from sending Building Works to tender to the use of a schedule of rates.

-         The increased level of scrutiny.

-         A Member enquired as to why DFG performance was reported to so many of the Council’s Committees, and was advised that this was considered appropriate in previous years as there had been a focus on securing improvements.

 

Following discussions, it was

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the contents of the report and comments of the Audit Committee be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) and Cabinet for their consideration.

 

Reason for decision

 

To keep the Audit Committee informed and to ensure Members are fully aware of the findings and conclusions of the review.

 

 

406     REGULATORY REPORTS TRACKING 2015 (MD) –

 

Committee was informed of progress made to date by the Council in addressing current recommendations and improvement proposals from external regulators.

 

Appendix 1 to the report contained a list of outstanding recommendations / improvement proposals made in regulatory reports since January 2011 from Estyn, the Wales Audit Office and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales.

 

It was proposed that Audit Committee receive a six monthly report, with progress updates on the implementation of these recommendations / improvement proposals. 

 

The Committee was requested to agree the actions identified as completed, following which they would be removed from future tracking reports. 

 

A Member expressed the view that it would be helpful if time targets were included within future reports. 

 

Having considered the report, it was

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the progress made to date in addressing the recommendations / improvement proposals that had been made by external regulators be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T completed actions be removed from the Regulatory Tracking report.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       In order to achieve continuous improvement of Council services.

 

(2)       In order to maintain an up to date audit trail of the Vale’s progress in addressing regulatory recommendations / improvement proposals.

 

 

407     AUDIT OF THE 2014/15 FINANCIAL STATEMENTS – REPORTING TO THOSE CHARGED WITH GOVERNANCE (MD) –

 

Committee received a report of the Auditor General for Wales, following the audit of the Council’s Financial Statements for 2014/15. 

 

The Council was responsible for the preparation of the Financial statements that presents fairly its financial position as at 31st March 2015.  The Auditor General for Wales was responsible for reporting whether, in his opinion, this was indeed the case.  The audit was undertaken by Grant Thornton UK LLP, as the Council’s Engagement Lead, on behalf of the Appointed Auditor. 

 

The Statement of Accounts for 2014/15 had been prepared by 30th June 2015, in accordance with the statutory timeframe. 

 

With the audit of these Financial Statements now substantially complete, a report detailing the key matters arising from the audit had to be reported by the Auditor General for Wales to those charged with governance, in accordance with the International Standard on Accounting (ISA 260). 

 

The provisional findings of Grant Thornton UK LLP on behalf of the Appointed Auditor on the audit of the Financial Statements were that:

 

  • They had concluded on all the risks identified in the Annual Audit Outline and no issues had been identified through their work
  • There were three uncorrected misstatements, none of which were material to the Council
  • There were no concerns with the qualitative aspects of the Council’s accounting practices and financial reporting
  • They did not encounter any significant difficulties during the audit
  • There were no significant matters discussed and corresponded upon with management which they needed to report on
  • There was no matter significant to the oversight of the financial reporting process that they needed to report on
  • They did identify some material weaknesses in internal controls which were set out and addressed by management as outlined in Appendix 4 to the report.

 

It was the intention of the Appointed Auditor to issue an unqualified audit report on the Financial Statements once the relevant Council officers had provided a signed Final Letter of Representation.

 

Having considered the report, it was

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the report of the Appointed Auditor on the audit of the Council’s Financial Statements for 2014/15 be approved and that the Financial Statements, including the Final Letter of Representation, be recommended for signature by those authorised.

 

(2)       T H A T a further report be brought before Audit Committee after March 2016 outlining the outcome of the Officers’ actions in respect of the weaknesses identified by the Appointed Auditor and detailed in Appendix 4 to his report.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       To ensure that the Members of the Audit Committee, as those charged with governance, have considered the results of the audit of the Council’s Financial Statements for 2014/15.

 

(2)       To ensure that the material weaknesses identified by the Appointed Auditor have been overcome.

 

 

408     INTERNAL AUDIT – OUTTURN REPORT – APRIL TO AUGUST 2015 (HOA) –

 

Committee received the actual Internal Audit performance against the five months of the audit plan year covering April to August 2015.

 

Appendices A and B to the report detailed the work undertaken by Internal Audit so far this year. 

 

An analysis of the work done in relation to the plan is shown below:

 

Directorate

2015/16

Full   Year

Plan   Days

Proportion

of   Plan Day

April   to

August   15

April   to

August

Actual   days

Resources

415

173

130

Development   Services

95

40

62

Visible   Services and Housing

186

77.5

49

Learning   and Skills

146

61

40

Social   Services

110

46

58

Cross   Cutting – Unplanned

102

42

91

Cross   Cutting - Specific

190

79

117

Cross   Cutting – Allocated

119

50

65

Cross   Cutting – Fraud and Error (Including NFI)

98

41

18

 

1,461

609

630

 

The figures show that 630 actual days had been achieved, which exceeded that expected by 21 days. 

 

As at 1st April 2015, the overall structure of the Section was based on 18.5 Full Time Equivalent employees, but since April, the Section had been carrying 2.5 vacant posts. 

 

On the basis of internal audit work undertaken so far this year, and taking into account all available evidence, it was the opinion of the Operational Manager – Audit (as the Head of Audit) that a reasonable assurance level could be applied to the standards of internal control at the Vale of Glamorgan Council so far to date.

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the contents of the report be noted.

 

Reason for decision

 

To keep the Audit Committee informed.

 

 

409     AUDIT COMMITTEE – FORWARD WORK PROGRAMME (HF) –

 

Committee received the updated Forward Work Programme for 2015/16. 

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the updated Forward Work Programme for 2015/16 be noted.

 

Reason for decision

 

To keep the Audit Committee informed.

 

 

 

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