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Agenda and minutes

Items
Note No. Item

15.

Apologies for Absence.

Minutes:

 An apology for absence had been received from Councillor J A Hayes.

 

The Chairman welcomed Darren Wells from Grant Thornton UK (External Auditors) and noted the presence of the Strategic Director (Internal Services) & Section 151 Officer, the Strategic Director (External Services) & Monitoring Officer, the Head of Legal Services & Deputy Monitoring Officer, the Financial Services Manager and the recently appointed Audit Manager, Russell Heppleston. At the invitation of the Chairman, the Audit Manager appraised Members of his previous audit work experience with the Mid-Kent Audit Partnership and Maidstone Council.

16.

Declarations of Interest.

To receive declarations of interest from Members including the term(s) of any Grant(s) of Dispensation.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

MD

17.

Confirmation of the Minutes of the meeting held on 30 July 2018 pdf icon PDF 126 KB

Minutes:

                        RESOLVED:

 

1.    That the Minutes of the Audit Board meeting held on 30 July 2018 be confirmed as accurate.

18.

Matters Arising - Update from the Strategic Director (Internal Services) & Section 151 Officer

Minutes:

The SD(IS)/Section 151 Officer confirmed the following points arising from the Board’s meeting on 30 July 2018 for Members:

 

·         Counter Fraud & Compliance Team Annual Report 2017/18 [Min. No. 8 refers]: a dedicated Dartford [01322] hot-line number had been re-instated for Dartford residents to contact the CF&C Team in their offices at Sevenoaks Council;

·         Internal Audit Annual Report 2017/18 [Min. No. 11 refers]: the audit client who had ‘Strongly Disagreed’ with the timing of their audit was the Payroll Manager, given the potential impact on his Section’s work. Arrangements had been put in place to ensure better liaison over the timing of any future audits of the Section;

·         Review of Internal Audit Recommendations - Progress Report [Min. No. 12 refers]: sign-off by the Managing Director (MD) of the Council’s IT Security Policy had been temporarily suspended, following the retirement of the ICT Manager and the appointment of an external IT consultant to conduct a review of the Council’s ICT structure and operation going forward. The outcome of that review would be incorporated into the Council’s new IT Security Policy document for agreement by Senior Management and sign-off by the MD in due course.

 

The Chairman and Members noted the progress made as recorded above.

19.

Urgent Items

The Chairman will announce his decision as to whether there are any urgent items and their position on the Agenda.

Minutes:

The Chairman confirmed that there were no urgent items for the Board to consider.

20.

References from Other Committees (IF ANY)

There are presently no reports from other Committees for the Board to consider.

Minutes:

There were no references from other Committees for the Board to consider.

21.

Report from the External Auditor pdf icon PDF 47 KB

To receive an update report from the Council’s External Auditors Grant Thornton UK and to note the contents of the Annual Audit letter.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The covering report from the Financial Services Manager enclosed two documents from the Council’s External Auditors Grant Thornton UK for Board Members to note:

 

·         Audit Progress Report and Sector Update for Year ending 31 March 2018 (attached as Appendix A to the report);

·         Annual Audit Letter for Year ending 31 March 2018 (attached as Appendix B to the report)

 

He advised Members that the Audit Progress Report was forward looking and detailed how Grant Thornton as External Auditor would deliver its responsibilities to the Council - the ‘2018/19 Deliverables’ to the following timescale:

 

·         Fee Letter for 2018/19 (received April 2018 – Min. No. 7 refers);

·         Accounts Audit Plan – a detailed plan would be presented to the Board in January 2019;

·         Interim Audit Findings – March 2019;

·         Auditors Report - July 2019;

·         Annual Audit Letter August 2019;

·         Annual Certification Letter – December 2019.

 

The Annual Audit Letter formally drew to a close the work undertaken by Grant Thornton in the Year ending 31 March 2018, including an Unqualified Opinions of the Council’s Financial Statements and Value for Money Conclusion, as presented to the Board in July 2018 [Min. Nos. 7 and 8 refer].

 

Board Members were advised that the External Auditor’s work to certify the Council’s Housing Benefit subsidy claim on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) - the Certificate of Grants - was not yet complete, but would be finalised by 30 November 2018 for presentation to the Board in January 2019.

 

In response to a specific question from a Member concerning a ‘tipping point’ having been reached in respect of local government finances [Grant Thornton Sector Update - agenda p. 20] Darren Wells (GT) advised the Board that; whilst subject to the national trends of achieving greater efficiency in the delivery of public services against a backdrop of increased demand and ongoing budget pressures; the Council’s financial outlook was stable.

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.    That Members note the Audit Progress Report and Sector Update for the Year ending 31 March 2018 [attached at Appendix A to the report] as presented by the External Auditor, Grant Thornton UK;

 

2.    That Members note the Annual Audit Letter for the Year ending 31 March 2018 [attached at Appendix B to the report] as also presented by Grant Thornton;

 

3.    That the Board’s appreciation of the work undertaken by the Council’s Financial Services Manager and his Team, be recorded in these Minutes.

22.

Annual Report 2017/2018 of the Monitoring Officer on the Review of Ethical Governance Arrangements and Ancillary Matters pdf icon PDF 49 KB

To review the Council’s ethical governance arrangements and ancillary matters as set out in Appendix A to the attached report from the Head of Legal Services.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report asked Board Members to review and endorse the Council’s ethical governance arrangements and ancillary matters as set out in the Monitoring Officer’s Annual Report for 2017/2018 attached as Appendix A to the report.

 

The Monitoring Officer’s Annual Report 2017/18 [Appendix A] had focussed on the effectiveness of the Council’s ethical governance framework and reviewed its governance and ancillary matters as listed in para 3.1 (a) to (e) and summarised in paras 3.2 and 3.3 [agenda pages 41/42 refer].

 

The Head of Legal Services & Deputy Monitoring Officer advised Members that in addition to reviewing the Council’s Constitution and standards; the bulk of the work undertaken to complete the 2017/18 Annual Report had been the review of the Council’s existing governance arrangements; to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Government’s May 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The training of Members and staff to ensure that they were aware of, and conformed to, the requirements of GDPR prior to publication in May 2018 had been a further significant area of work for the Legal Services team.

 

Regarding the ethical arrangements in place for the ‘Member Code of Conduct’ [Appendix A - paras 3.2 and 6.1 to 6.7]; the Strategic Director (External Services) & Monitoring Officer advised Members that the recruitment of a replacement ‘Independent Person(s)’ had begun and adverts placed in the local media and on appropriate professional websites, and that the review of the existing Arrangements procedure for dealing with complaints was reported in detail elsewhere in the agenda [Item 9 Min. No. 23 refers].

 

The Shadow Leader of the Council [attending as an Audit Board Member] noted the key role played by the             Monitoring Officer in overseeing the Council’s governance arrangements. He asked what the key strengths of the Constitution were and whether there were any areas of weakness.

 

The Head of Legal Services & Deputy Monitoring Officer advised Members that the Council’s Constitution had been strengthened, following the extensive work undertaken in the period under review to ensure that the Council’s governance arrangements and ancillary matters where fully compliant with the Government’s new GDPR provisions and other legislative requirements. An identified weakness had been the provision of only one ‘Independent Person’ in the Council’s governance arrangements for the Member Code of Conduct (following the resignation of Mr Peter Collins). However, it was proposed to replace Mr Collins with 2 or 3 ‘Independent Persons’ in the current recruitment process.

 

The Strategic Director (External Services) & Monitoring Officer confirmed the weakness identified in the previous provision of a sole ‘Independent Person’ and confirmed the proposal to recruit 2 or 3 for the future. This would be of particular benefit when the Monitoring Officer and the Member [that was the subject of a complaint] both had recourse to advice from an ‘Independent Person’; as clarified in detail elsewhere in the agenda. Inquiries were being made of Kent Secretaries, by the Head of Legal Services, to invite other local authority Independent Persons to assist should it prove necessary in the interim.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.

23.

Review of Arrangements for Code of Conduct Complaints under the Localism Act 2011 pdf icon PDF 56 KB

To approve the revised Arrangements as set out in the report and Appendix A.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report from the Head of Legal Services & Deputy Monitoring Officer asked Members to approve revised Arrangements for dealing with Code of Conduct Complaints under the Localism Act 2011; as set out in Appendix A to her report.

 

In response to specific questions from Members concerning Appendix A the Monitoring Officer and Deputy Monitoring Officer confirmed the following points:

 

·         ‘Issues arising/lessons to be learnt’ from the period under review would be incorporated into Member training as appropriate, and recorded in the 2018/19 report to the Board;

·         ‘Consultation with the Independent Person’ [para 2 (a) and (b) agenda p.87]: under the previous Arrangements the Monitoring Officer had had to consult the Independent Person on every occasion, even when it was clear that a complaint did not meet the criteria and would be rejected, and an investigation not therefore required. This had been constraining in terms of time and effort for all parties concerned, and the revised Arrangements [Appendix A 2 (b) refers] now allowed the Monitoring Officer to exercise her judgement in whether to consult the Independent Person, when she was minded not to investigate a complaint. This was consistent with the terms of the Localism Act 2011;

·         ‘Legal jurisdiction and Local Criteria Tests’ [para 3 agenda pages87/88]: the Monitoring Officer (MO) will initially assesses all complaints received against the criteria (a) to (f) of the legal jurisdiction test. If the complaint failed one or more of the criteria it was rejected. If a complaint satisfied all the criteria in the legal jurisdiction test it was assessed against criteria (a) to (l) of the local assessment test and again dismissed, unless it met all of those criteria. Where assessment of a complaint against an individual criteria was ‘subjective’ in nature, the MO might choose to consult the Independent Person in such circumstances, prior to rejecting the complaint;

·         When complaints are rejected the MO explained to the complainant why, and quoted the criteria the complaint had failed to meet;

·         Members were also notified of decisions to dismiss complaints made against them, together with a summary of the complaint made.

 

Members queried whether the Member being complained of, had a right to be represented at the Hearing Panel (by either a lawyer or a colleague). The Deputy Monitoring Officer undertook to review the matter and produce a procedure in due course.

 

The Chairman and Members thanked the Monitoring Officer and Deputy Monitoring Officer for their positive responses to their specific questions as detailed above.

 

                        RESOLVED:

 

1.    That Members approve the revised Arrangements as set out in  Appendix A to the report with the following additions:

 

(i)            That Members be formally notified of all/any dismissed complaints made against them;

(ii)          That ‘lessons learnt’ from complaints be referred to in future Annual Reports from the Monitoring Officer; 

(iii)         That the right to be represented at the Hearing Panel be incorporated in a procedure by the Head of Legal Services/Deputy Monitoring Officer.

 

24.

Complaints Monitoring and Procedure Review 2017/2018 pdf icon PDF 111 KB

The attached report and Appendices from the Head of Legal Services provides Members with information on the Council’s Corporate Complaints Procedure, including the number and nature of complaints received in respect of Services provided by the Council, during the period 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The standard report and Appendices from the Head of Legal Services provided Members with information on the Council’s Corporate Complaints Procedure, including the number and nature of complaints received in respect of Services provided by the Council, during the period 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018.

 

The Chairman welcomed the report and noted that the number of complaints received in the period under review had dropped by some 12% compared to the corresponding 12 month period to 31 March 2017.  He viewed this development as a positive reflection on the delivery of Council services to Dartford residents.

 

                        RESOLVED:

 

1.      That the Board note the contents of the report.

25.

Internal Audit Update Report pdf icon PDF 48 KB

This report provides Members with an update on progress to date towards completion of the 2018/19 Audit Plan. It also provides a broader update on the Service following the appointment of the Interim Audit Manager (Chief Audit Executive) in August 2018.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The update report from the Interim Audit Manager enclosed an Internal Audit Progress Report (attached as Appendix A) which detailed progress made up to October 2018 in completing the 2018/19 Audit Plan; together with a broader update on the Internal Audit Service; following the appointment of the Interim Audit Manager and Chief Audit Executive in August 2018.

 

The IAM/CAE advised Members that his new Internal Audit Progress Report (IAPR) combined the three separate reports previously presented to the Board detailing progress on the Audit Plan, Audit Reports Outstanding and Audit Reports completed.

 

He highlighted the following points for Members in the new format IAPR document [Appendix A];

 

·         Page 131 – Resources: during the first 6 months of the 2018/19 Plan 30% of the Plan Days had been used, and it was confirmed that IA service had sufficient resources to meet the ‘back-loaded’ demands contained in Quarters 3 and 4 of the Plan. Following hand-over from his predecessor in July 2018 all Qtr. 3 audit work had been scheduled and all Qtr. 4 work had been planned and agreed for the end of the year;

 

·         Page 134 – Audit Work Summaries: these had been kept short in the absence of any ‘Adverse’ Opinions, greater detail would be provided in the future if a ‘Limited’ or ‘No Assurance’  opinion was issued;

 

·         Page 136 – Outstanding Recommendations: 22 of 37 of these had been completed with only 15 Recommendations left ‘live’. Extensions had been agreed with management for the 3 (red) High Priority recs. with the Low Priority (green) recs. not due until January 2019 [table foot of p.136];

 

·         Page 139 – Data Protection (GDPR) and Homelessness: both these Recommendations were to be closed-off later in the audit year, and incorporated into reviews scheduled between January - March 2019;

 

·         Page 140 – Service Update: the objectives of the IAM/CAE position, had been linked to outstanding recommendations from the External Quality Assessment under taken by PriceWaterhouseCooper, and would be incorporated into the new Audit Strategy and Plan for 2019/20.

 

The Chairman noted that the % figure quoted in para 11 of the report [agenda p. 131] should be 40% not 30% and the IAM acknowledged and noted the error.

 

The IAM/CAE also confirmed for Members, that he would be supervising and supporting the ongoing development and training of the current Internal Audit team, including their annual appraisals; to ensure that existing specialist skills were kept and new skills developed to meet the challenges faced by the Team going forward.

 

The Chairman thanked the IAM/CAE for his update report, and expressed his preference for the new format adopted for the IAPR [Appendix A] which gave Board Members greater detail on the work undertaken by the IA Team, whilst remaining concise and clear in its format.

 

The Vice-Chairman and the Cabinet Member for Strategic Council Finances [attending as a Board Member] supported the Chairman in these views.

 

                        RESOLVED:

 

1.    That Members note the Internal Audit Progress Report (IAPR) attached as Appendix  ...  view the full minutes text for item 25.

26.

Selective Invoice Checks pdf icon PDF 63 KB

During the Board meeting held on 30 July 2018 Members selected 5 (five) creditor payments for checking. This report summarises the findings of that exercise and provides Members the opportunity to select further payments for checking.

Minutes:

At the July meeting of the Board, Members selected 5 (five) creditor payments for checking by Internal Audit, to provide Members with reasonable assurance that goods and services commissioned or procured and for which payment had been made, were in compliance with Council procedures. 

 

The report advised the Board of the outcome of that exercise and found that that all 5 creditor payments selected, were made appropriately and in compliance with Council procedures, as set out in detail in paragraphs 3.2 to 5.5 of the report [agenda pages 143/144]. The report also invited Members to select 5 further payments for checking by Internal Audit for report to the Board in January 2019.

 

                        RESOLVED:

 

1.    That Members note the contents of the report;

 

2.    That Members select a further 5 (five) creditor payments for checking by Internal Audit and that the outcome of that exercise be reported to the next meeting of the Board in January 2019.