Agenda and draft minutes

Audit and Assurance Committee - Friday, 15th January, 2021 2.00 pm

Contact: Daniel Hamilton  Email: daniel.hamilton@cumbria.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

104.

APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

To receive any apologies for absence

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence received on this occasion.

105.

MEMBERSHIP

To note any changes to the membership of the Committee

 

 

Minutes:

There were no changes of membership on this occasion.

106.

DISCLOSURES OF INTEREST

Members are invited to disclose any disclosable pecuniary interest they have in any item on the agenda which comprises

 

1          Details of any employment, office, trade, profession or vocation carried on for            profit or gain.

 

2          Details of any payment or provision of any other financial benefit (other than from the authority) made or provided within the relevant period in respect of any expenses incurred by you in carrying out duties as a member, or towards your election expenses.  (This includes any payment or financial benefit from a trade union within the meaning of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

 

3          Details of any contract which is made between you (or a body in which you have a beneficial interest) and the authority

 

(a)       Under which goods or services are to be provided or works are to be executed; and

 

            (b)       Which has not been fully discharged.

 

4          Details of any beneficial interest in land which is within the area of the authority. 

 

5          Details of any licence (alone or jointly with others) to occupy land in the area of the authority for a month or longer. 

 

6          Details of any tenancy where (to your knowledge)

 

            (a)       The landlord is the authority; and

 

            (b)       The tenant is a body in which you have a beneficial                                                         interest.

 

7          Details of any beneficial interest in securities of a body where

 

(a)       That body (to your knowledge) has a place of business or land in the    area of the authority; and

 

 

(b)       Either –

 

(i)      The total nominal value of the securities exceeds £25,000 or one            hundredth of the total issued share capital of that body; or

 

(ii)     If that share capital of that body is of more than one class, the total nominal value of the shares of any one class in which the relevant person has a beneficial interest exceeds one hundredth of the total issued share capital of that class.

In addition, you must also disclose other non-pecuniary interests set out in the Code of Conduct where these have not already been registered.

 

Note

 

A “disclosable pecuniary interest” is an interest of a councillor or their partner (which means spouse or civil partner, a person with whom they are living as husband or wife, or a person with whom they are living as if they are civil partners).

Minutes:

There were no disclosures made on this occasion.

107.

EXCLUSION OF PRESS AND PUBLIC

To consider whether the press and public should be excluded from the meeting during consideration of any item on the agenda.

Minutes:

There were no items on the agenda which required the exclusion of press and public.

 

108.

MINUTES pdf icon PDF 113 KB

To confirm as a correct record the minutes of the meetings of the Committee held on 23 November 2020 and 27 November 2020 (copies enclosed).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED that,                 the minutes of previous meetings held on 23 November 2020 and 27 November 2020 be confirmed as accurate and complete records.

 

109.

Quarter 2 – Corporate Risk Report pdf icon PDF 143 KB

To consider a report from the Director of Finance (Section 151 Officer).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members considered a report from the Director of Finance (S151 Officer) which provided a progress update on the Corporate Risk Register for the second quarter to 30 September 2020. Reflecting the timing of the meeting the report focused on the Quarter 2 position but also gave an indication of the direction of travel during Quarter 3 which would be reported upon further at the March 2021 meeting of the Committee.

 

The Director of Finance (S151 Officer) introduced the report by providing an overview of the ongoing challenging context in which the Council has been operating since the last risk report delivered to Committee on 17 September 2020, and also provided adequate assurances around the controls and preparatory measures needed to be in place to manage the escalating demands on Council Services during the winter months (Quarter 3) and specifically in context of the ongoing and changing impact of COVID-19, the potential impact of coming to the end of the EU Exit transition period as well as the potential for winter weather events. The Director of Finance then handed over to the Senior Risk Officer to talk members through the detail of the report.

 

During Quarter 2, 12 risks remained on the corporate risk register, 8 of which were high risks and 4 were medium risks. There were no new risks added and no risks were closed off or removed. There remained 1 notable emerging risk which was Climate Change.

 

Members heard that on considering their Corporate Risks, the People Directorate Management Team concluded that in respect of 3 risks, the risk scores needed to increase due to the escalating impact of the second wave of COVID-19. These 3 risks and their scores were as follows: -

  • Risk 4 - Health and Social Care Demand and System Failure - increased from 16 to 20
  • Risk 5 - Resilience of the Care Sector and impact on meeting care needs - increased from 16 to 20
  • Risk 6 - Cumbria COVID-19 Local Outbreak Control Plan - increased from 15 to 20        

 

These three risks, as well as the risk of COVID-19 impacting on the provision of Council Services, formed the basis of the Deep Dive Risk Analysis at item 8 of the agenda. The presentation would outline the key controls and mitigating actions that are in place to help manage the interrelated aspects of all of these risks, and in particular the planned arrangements in place to deal with the unprecedented demands of this year’s Winter Pressures.

 

The Senior Risk Officer then updated members of the Committee on the other main area of significant change since the September committee meeting, the corporate risk of exiting the EU transition period. An update on this risk was provided within the Quarter 2 report due to the timing of this meeting (January 2021) relative to the end of the transition period (31 Dec 2020).        

 

It was explained that a considerable amount of effort had been taken by many officers to ensure robust risk assessments and planned  ...  view the full minutes text for item 109.

110.

DEEP DIVE RISK ANALYSIS - Winter Pressures

To receive a presentation from the Executive Director – People (Deputy Chief Executive).

Minutes:

The Deep Dive Analysis for this meeting related to Winter Pressures.

 

The presentation was introduced by the Executive Director – People (Deputy Chief Executive) and then delivered by the Senior Manager - Health and Care Integration.

 

The presentation included the following risk management items: -

 

  • Introduction
  • Impact of COVID-19 on the provision of Council Services – Update
  • Health and Social Care Demand and System Failure – Update
  • Resilience of the Care Sector and impact on meeting care needs
  • Cumbria COVID-19 Local Outbreak Control Plan
  • Interdependencies
  • System Controls

 

Members sought assurances from officers on the progress being made with the vaccination programme for Cumbria Care Homes and on how the Council was helping to support other care homes at this time.  

 

Members heard that as of the week beginning 11 January 2021, 60% of staff and 69% of residents across Cumbria care settings had been vaccinated. The Director of Public Health also confirmed that the rollout plan for the following week would ensure all eligible residents across both Cumbria Care and the private sector had received their vaccinations. In response to a specific question regarding care home support, the Director of Public Health stated that there was a high degree of support available to care homes for both the public and private sector and this has been in place for some time. It was explained that oversight had been provided by the outbreak control team which had been meeting daily since mid-April 2020. There was also a dedicated infection prevention team that was staffed every day of the week and would work closely with care homes to mitigate any outbreaks.

 

Members sought assurances regarding the discharge of COVID-19 positive residents into care homes. The Assistant Director - Adults explained that patients that had tested positive were not being discharged from hospital into settings without designated beds. There was work in progress to secure a designated setting and officers were optimistic that this would be established by the end of the following week.

 

A further concern was raised around the availability of vaccinations for those who provide as well as receive domiciliary care. The Director of Public Health confirmed that domiciliary care staff are frontline health and social care workers and were priority 2 and should be vaccinated by the end of next week. In terms of residents, they are not explicitly identified as a group in the prioritisation list which is largely factored by age and vulnerability but because most people receiving care at home would fall into these categories they should have already received vaccines or be due to receive them soon.

 

RESOLVED that,     members receive a presentation on ‘Planning for Winter Pressures’.

111.

Internal Audit Progress Report to the 15 December 2020 pdf icon PDF 201 KB

To consider a report from the Director of Finance (s151 Officer).

Minutes:

Members considered a report from the Group Audit Manager which highlighted the progress toward completion of outstanding 2019/20 audit work and work from the 2020/21 audit plan. The Group Audit Manager introduced the report by explaining to members that this was an additional report outside of the normal reporting cycle which would provide a summary of the work of Internal Audit in the six weeks to 15 December 2020. 

The Group Audit Manager informed members that there had been 1 completed audit in respect of the 2020/21 Audit Plan which related to a follow up on Vacant Properties which achieved ‘Reasonable assurance’. Two draft reports had also been finalised from earlier audit plans which were included in the 2019/20 Head of Internal Audit Opinion but finalised in 2020/21. These related to CNDR Connect (Partial assurance) and Follow up - Care Act Implementation (Reasonable assurance). There were a further 6 audits which had been completed to draft report stage, with 5 of these contributing towards the 2020/21 Head of Internal Audit Opinion.

With regards to amendments to the approved plan for 2020/21, the Group Audit Manager reiterated the importance of flexibility at the current time and highlighted the necessary amendments to the plan. The Emergency Duty Team (EDT) review had now been amended from a full review to a follow up, and the Children Looked After Recovery Plan and Hospital Discharges (Dtoc2) reviews had been removed from the 2020/21 audit plan with the Children Looked After Recovery Plan being deferred and added to the 2021/22 audit plan under the heading ‘Increased demand for children’s services’. The revised plan for 2020/21 now included 49 views, 15 of which had been completed to at least draft report stage and 20 of which were in progress.

The Group Audit Manager explained to members that he had met and discussed progress on the 2020/21 audit reviews with the Executive Director – People on 11 December 2020 and both were keen to progress as much work as possible to avoid any impact on the Head of Internal Audit Opinion for 2020/21.

As previously reported to the Committee, the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors recognised that the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak would continue to be felt during 2020/21 and the challenges and potential impact this might have on delivering the Head of Internal Audit Opinion for 2020/21. CIPFA issued guidance in November 2020 on Head of Internal Audit Opinions for 2020/21 and on 15 December 2020 the three senior members of the Internal Audit team attended the CIPFA webinar on this subject.

Members heard that at the CIPFA webinar it was clear from those attending that, as referred to in our last update report, there is still a mixed picture across the country in terms of ability to give a Head of Internal Audit Opinion for 2020/21 without any limitation of scope.   

It remained the view of the Group Audit Manager that work continue as planned, in terms of progressing our Internal Audit Plan for 2020/21,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 111.

112.

The Outcome of the Redmond Review Report pdf icon PDF 470 KB

To consider a report from the Director of Finance (s151 Officer).

Minutes:

Members considered a report from the Director of Finance (s151 officer) which provided a summary of the outcome of the Redmond Review on ‘Local Audit and the Transparency of Local Authority Financial Reporting’.

The Director of Finance (s151 officer) introduced the report and highlighted the key message of the Redmond Review which was to address the need for greater accountability and improved transparency in financial reporting in local government and the need for urgent reform to address the local audit market where audit firms were struggling to meet contractual requirements.

The Group Audit Manager summarised some of the recommendations that had arisen from the Redmond Review and explained that the new VFM framework for 2020/21 which would increase focus on financial sustainability, governance and value for money would impact on the officer time needed for this part of the audit. Another key change was the extension of the accounts audit deadline to 30 September for 2020/21 and 2021/22. Members heard that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) strongly agreed with the Redmond Review recommendation that the external auditor should be required to present an Annual Report to a Full Council meeting. It was also explained that MHCLG was to work with CIPFA, NAO and LGA to provide new guidance on the appointment of independent members to Audit Committees.

A Member asked about any potential pitfalls of appointing an independent member to the Audit and Assurance Committee and the Group Audit Manager clarified that one of the key considerations, if an independent member was appointed, would be regarding the extent of their current knowledge and training necessary to familiarise them with Local Authority accounts and auditing processes. Another challenge was that they would need to understand how Cumbria County Council worked and the issues facing it and this would take a time commitment from them to do this.

A discussion took place regarding external audit fees in which the Director of Finance (s151 Officer) stated the importance of both internal and external audit being adequately resourced so as to fulfil their responsibilities and provide the necessary assurance to those charged with governance in Local Authorities over a range of matters, including the validation of the appropriateness of the financial statements, the control and governance arrangements of the Council and the Value for Money judgement in respect of the Council’s use of resources in the period reviewed.

The Engagement Lead – Grant Thornton explained to members that  a lot of the recommendations made in the Redmond Review were things which the External Auditors and the Council did already. The Review would formalise these processes and the Engagement Lead welcomed this and stated that there was a close interrelatedness between the recommendations which would mean they would need to be taken as a whole.

The Chair raised concerns regarding the extension of the accounts audit deadline to 30 September for 2021/22 but not for 2022/23 which could create issues due to the tight time frame and the potential  ...  view the full minutes text for item 112.

113.

(GRANT THORNTON ITEMS)

113a

External Audit - Audit Progress Report

To consider a verbal update from the Audit Manager and the Engagement Lead.

Minutes:

Members received a verbal report from the Engagement Lead – Grant Thornton which provided an update on progress with the External Audit. The Engagement Lead began by explaining the completion of the whole government accounts work and the issuing of the External Audit final certification for the accounts 2019/20 on 17 January 2021.

 

The Senior Audit Manager then gave an update on the progress of the teacher’s pension’s grant assurance work whereby he stated that it was substantially complete and that expectations were that it would be completed in the next week.

 

114.

FORWARD PLAN - AUDIT AND ASSURANCE COMMITTEE pdf icon PDF 51 KB

To note the Forward Plan for the Audit and Assurance Committee and agree any additional items (copy enclosed).

Minutes:

Members noted the forward plan.

115.

DATE & TIME OF NEXT MEETING

The next meeting will be held on 11 March 2021 via Microsoft Teams.

 

Minutes:

The next meeting of the Audit and Assurance Committee is due to take place on 11 March 2021 via Microsoft Teams.