To consider the report of the Interim Section 151 Officer (copy enclosed)
The Committee considered the report of the Interim Section 151 Officer covering the Internal Audit Follow-up of Recommendations report that provided an overall update of Audit actions, including both open and closed actions, and those recommended and approved by BDO and Maldon District Council (MDC) staff for removal, at appendix l to the report.
The Chairman introduced the report and deferred to the Interim Section 151 Officer to cover the key issues before handing over to the Internal Audit Partner.
The Interim Section 151 Officer drew Members’ attention to page 80, the section titled new superseded/closed actions. He reminded Members that this section followed on from a report ‘Historic Audit Actions’ that was previously deferred by the committee. This was part of a necessary housekeeping exercise and both the internal auditors and internal officers confirmed the original recommendation was either out of date or being picked up in other ways. The aim was to result in a coherent list of outstanding actions that Members could follow through and decide how they were delivered.
The Internal Audit Partner reiterated that the report outlined the current situation as explained by the Section 151 Officer, namely where recommendations were closed and where they were superseded. He said this was a sensible piece of work in light of all the changes that had taken place and that internal audit would continue to follow up on recommendations, focusing on the risk and best approach under the Council’s new structure. In response to a query regarding the way work was categorised in the report the Internal Audit Partner said that BDO was looking at introducing less complicated reporting mechanisms.
The Interim Section 151 Officer, in response to a query around work outstanding in respect of fraud advised that within the authority this area was the responsibility of the Section 151 Officer and that work was now in hand. All areas where the Council’s Anti-Fraud and Corruption Strategy impacted had been identified. In order to raise awareness of anti-fraud and corruption risk, key documents had been shared with Tier 2 Managers who in turn cascaded the information to their respective service managers and officers. This was also on the agenda for both the Extended Leadership Team (ELT) meetings that included the Corporate Leadership Team (CLT) and Tier 2 Managers.
He reassured Members that considerable work had already been undertaken in this area as a result of previous audits where weaknesses had been identified and actioned:- understanding collusion, pricing cartels, accounts payable and additional checks around changes in suppliers which in turn addressed anti-fraud/corruption activity. He clarified that the reference to a substantive piece of work in the report related to constitutional changes reflecting where the responsibility lay for this area of work in the scheme of delegation, namely with the Section 151 Officer. This, together with other constitutional changes would be reported back to Committee for recommendation to Council.
In addition, he reported that the Section 151 Officer would be supported by a member of staff responsible for embedding awareness of the potential risks. That work and necessary action around this area would require a corporate approach, led by the Section151 Officer with input from Human Resources, the Strategy, Performance and Governance Directorate etc.to ensure a comprehensive programme of periodic awareness was in place, including training programmes for new and existing staff together with regular review of document processes and procedures.
He concluded that the Council was actively addressing and monitoring how it might be defrauded, how to avoid fraud and embed an understanding of fraud risks across the Council, as issues of this nature remained live.
There being no further questions the Chairman put the recommendations to the Committee and they were agreed.
(i) That the Members reviewed the audit actions update, including removal of audit actions which have been addressed and delivered in other ways operationally, or are no longer relevant and approved the current list;
(ii) That Members reviewed this report bearing in mind the future internal audit plan and are reassured that actions will continue to be reviewed as part of our internal audit process;
(iii) That this report is provided quarterly in order to monitor internal audit actions going forwards;
(iv) The progress report on the implementation of the Committee’s resolution as set out in section 3.6 of this report be noted including appendix 2.