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Agenda item

Agenda item

Internal Audit Plan Monitoring Report

To consider the Internal Audit work undertaken and the assurance given on the adequacy of internal controls operating in the systems audited.  


48.1          The report of the Chief Audit Executive (Head of Corporate Services), circulated at Pages No. 84-103, provided an overview of the internal audit work completed during the period.  Members were asked to consider the work undertaken and the assurance given on the adequacy of the internal controls operating in the systems audited.

48.2          Members were advised that overall the conclusion was very positive with only one limited opinion; this was particularly good considering the Council was coming out of the pandemic and the internal control environment had changed significantly.  In terms of the work completed during the period, the audit of complaints had shown this process was generally sound and the Council was in the bottom quartile when benchmarked against other authorities, which was positive.  There was one outstanding recommendation around refresher training for staff responsible for handling complaints and this would be delivered by the Corporate Director before she left the authority in June.  The audit of cemeteries had shown payments were accurately received and reconciled but there was an issue regarding segregation of duties as one person carried out a number of stages so a recommendation had been made to give consideration to introducing a second Officer.  Whilst the overall level of control was reasonable, the audit had highlighted the potential for digitalisation of processes and this was included in the Business Transformation work programme; however, the team was currently prioritising licensing and planning.  As reported earlier on the Agenda, it was proposed that the national driver shortage be removed from the corporate risk register following the audit which had found a reasonable level of control with no recommendations being made.  With regard to the cemeteries audit, a Member noted that income was almost £65,000 but expenditure was only around £13,500 and she asked how it was broken down.  The Head of Finance and Asset Management advised that the figures were costs directly associated with burials; there were other costs in terms of delivering the service, for example, employment of the sexton and Ubico costs which would be included within grounds maintenance.  The Member raised concern that the maps held at the cemetery may be out of date leading to duplication in allocation of plots but there was no start date for digitalisation.  She noted that the Council had a duty to make necessary arrangements where no suitable funeral arrangements had been made for a deceased person who had died in the borough, with only one such funeral taking place between 1 October 2021 and 30 September 2022, and she asked if this was likely to increase as she expected there would be more people without assets in future.  The Head of Finance and Asset Management confirmed that the Council was keen to digitalise all services where possible but there was a lack of capacity within the Business Transformation team and, when considering all of the needs for the coming year, it was felt that licensing and planning were more important in terms of where to place reserves.  The current service was very paper-based and it was unsustainable for just one or two individuals to have the knowledge of plots etc. so digitalisation was necessary to ensure the service continued to perform well.  In terms of the Council’s duty, the Head of Community Services advised that in most cases the costs could be recovered but the person referenced in the audit had no assets so it had fallen to the Council.

48.3           An audit of laptops had also been undertaken following the purchase and roll out of approximately 200 laptops to enable staff to work remotely during the pandemic.  The audit had demonstrated that IT were often unaware when contractors stopped working for the authority which meant there was pressure to recover their IT equipment quickly, as such, there was an organisational recommendation around keeping IT up to date in order for kit to be returned in a timely manner.  It was noted that, due to the need to purchase laptops quickly the requirements of the contract rules had not been followed which was appropriate under the circumstances; however, when the contract rules were not followed, a waiver was required and this was not in place.  A Member asked whether Officers were satisfied that value for money was achieved and the Head of Corporate Services confirmed that was the case.  The Member asked what this opinion was based upon in the absence of a tender and was advised that the laptops had been purchased for around £500/600, depending on availability, had they been purchased at a significantly lower cost the Head of Corporate Services would have been concerned as to the quality of the product.  He indicated that he was confident that the laptops purchased were reflective of need and comparable to the market.  The ICT Manager stressed that it had been an unprecedented time when demand for laptops was extremely high and stock was difficult to come by so Officers had to take action when stock was available in order to ensure services could continue - value was in availability rather than the cost of the items and that would be reflected in the waiver which would be completed.  In response to a query regarding segregation of duties, the ICT Manager advised that the Head of Corporate Services and the Head of Finance and Asset Management had been consulted on all decisions made on large scale purchase of laptops.  Another Member asked if there were penalties within contracts of employment if people did not return their IT equipment when leaving the authority and was advised that the issue was contractors who were not recruited in the same way as permanent staff and were subject to different contracts; the main problem was that their contracts could be terminated at very short notice.  Contractors could be based in locations across the country so it could take time to retrieve equipment and raised concerns around data protection etc.  The recommendation was around managers notifying IT if contracts were terminated in order to limit this risk.  The Member raised concern that, if laptops had been provided for all new staff at the outset of the pandemic, they would shortly be coming to the end of their lives and would need replacing which she presumed would be a significant cost.  She also questioned what happened to those laptops which were returned.  The ICT Manager explained that the authority had been moving to a model of hybrid working in January 2020 so the pandemic had effectively accelerated a two year roll-out programme and the Council had been able to take advantage of collaborative and modern working practices at an earlier stage.  In terms of disposal, laptops that had been rolled out in the first phase were now reaching end of life due to being used on a daily basis; however, they would have residual use so they would either be donated to charity or stripped for parts to fix stock, or they would be recycled. 

48.4           The Head of Corporate Services indicated that a new HR self-service system had been launched in October 2022 and an audit had been undertaken in relation to timesheet recording and administration of annual leave.  The audit had found a limited level of control in terms of being able to confirm that the correct amount of leave had been recorded on the digital system.  The HR and OD Manager explained that there had been a number of different practices for recording annual leave across the Council services and when My HR had launched there had been reliance on individual staff inputting the correct information from the locally held records, as such, the lack of consistency, and the limited opinion, was unsurprising.  A review was therefore required to ensure information was correct – this was a big piece of work but it was necessary.  A Member noted there was a typographical error at Page No. 101 of the report which should refer to October 2022 rather than 2023.

48.5          It was

RESOLVED          That the internal audit plan monitoring report be NOTED.

Supporting documents: