Agenda and draft minutes

Audit Board - Wednesday 21 July 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Centre. View directions

Note No. Item


Apologies for Absence.


Apologies for absence were received on behalf of Councillors; Mrs J A Ozog (Substitute Cllr. Avtar Sandhu), D Butler-Ruhle, R Gosine and S N Gosine and from the representatives of Grant Thornton UK, the Council’s External Auditors.


The Chairman asked that the Committee’s condolences and best wishes to Cllr. Julie Ozog, following the sad loss of her mother the previous week, be recorded in the Minutes.


Declarations of Interest.

To receive declarations of interest from Members including the terms(s) of the Grant of Dispensation (if any) by the Audit Board or Chief Officer and Director of Corporate Services, in consultation with the Monitoring Officer.


There were no declarations of interest including from Cllr. Lloyd when he joined the meeting.



Confirmation of the Minutes of the meeting held on 31 March 2021 pdf icon PDF 207 KB




1.     That the Minutes of the Board meeting held on 31 March 2021 be confirmed as accurate.


Urgent Items

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


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


References from Other Committees (If Any)

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


There were no references from other Committees.


Counter Fraud Training


Given the number of apologies for absence from Board Members it was agreed with the Chairman that the proposed training would be re-scheduled to a later date and Members informed accordingly.


Counter Fraud & Compliance Team Annual Report 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 139 KB


The report from the Counter Fraud Manager (CFM) updated the Board on the work undertaken by the Counter Fraud & Compliance Team during the preceding financial year ending 31 March 2021 - as set out in detail in Appendix A to the report.


The CFM highlighted the following principal points in his oral presentation of his report and Appendix A to Members:


·         Covid-19 Business Support Grants [Appendix A para 3 refers]: the Government funding scheme to support local businesses impacted by successive lockdown measures to combat COVID-19 had been created at very short notice. The need to distribute the Government funding as soon as possible, whilst creating payment assurance plans and devising checking protocols to ensure that funding went to the right people, had impacted heavily on the Counter Fraud Team’s 2020 Work Plan. Some £30M of business support grants had been successfully distributed locally via 20+ varying schemes with over 6,000 applications in total, with the majority of the Counter Fraud Team’s workload dedicated to assurance work. He was pleased to report that only a handful of fraudulent applications had been discovered and that action was being taken to recover the monies;

·         Kent Intelligence Network/Kent Counter Fraud Hub [report Appendix A agenda pages 11/12 refer]: The Counter Fraud Team had continued its effective partnership working with the Kent Intelligence Network in the period under review, which had resulted in invoices totalling £1.2M being issued which would generate an additional £300K in additional Business Rates revenue for the Council. The Team would continue to work with the Kent Intelligence Network going forward.


The Chairman thanked the CFM for his 2020/21 annual report and congratulated him on his team’s performance in the period under review with the Board’s thanks, sentiments which Members’ endorsed.




1.    That Board Members note the work undertaken by the Counter Fraud and Compliance team during the preceding financial year ended 31 March 2021 as set out in detail in Appendix A to the report;

2.    That Members endorse the work of the Counter Fraud Team in the period under review.


Accounting Estimates and Related Disclosures - Request from External Auditors Grant Thornton UK pdf icon PDF 206 KB

Additional documents:


The report from the Head of Finance enclosed at Appendix A an accounting estimates and disclosures document from the Council’s External Auditor Grant Thornton UK entitled ‘Informing the audit risk assessment for Dartford Borough Council 2020-21’. The document, submitted at the External Auditor’s request, formed part of the changes in methodology of the annual audit of the Council’s accounts, and was in addition to Grant Thornton’s standard annual letter to the Chairman of the Audit Board.


The Head of Finance presented the report and Appendix A to Members in the unfortunate absence of GT representatives who had been ‘pinged’ by the NHS ‘Track & Trace’ app. and self-isolating as a consequence.   


He advised the Board that Appendix A comprised a template of GT questions with the answers provided by Council Officers. Board Members had to be satisfied that they understood the questions and agreed with the answers Officers had provided.


Regarding other business the Head of Finance advised Members that work had been completed on the Housing Benefits Subsidy Audit and the HRA Pooling of Capital Receipts Return of HRA Receipts. Further details of this work may be included in the next report from the External Auditors.




1.    That Board Members note the report and the accounting estimates and related disclosures set out in Appendix A (Informing the audit risk assessment for Dartford Borough Council 2020-21).


Internal Audit Annual Opinion (July 2021) pdf icon PDF 161 KB

Additional documents:


The report from the Audit Manager set out the Internal Audit Annual Opinion [attached as Appendix A to the report], on the effectiveness of the Council’s internal control, governance and risk management arrangements, and was a requirement under the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (PSIAS).


The Audit Manager advised the Board that the annul Internal Audit Opinion was the single most important report of the year and feed directly into the foundations of the Council’s Annual Governance Statement each year.


She advised Members of several changes from the 2020 annual Opinion and the following principal points to note:


·         Graded Opinions [Annex H agenda p.81 refers] - the new category of ‘Reasonable Assurance’ meant that the control environment was generally sound but that some areas of weakness had been identified which may, if not addressed, put the achievement of some objectives at risk. The overall opinion grades would align to individual audits from 2021/22;

·         Disappointingly, it had not been possible to complete all of the 2020-21 Audit Plan.  However, 18 of 22 audits had been completed with 2/3 of audits attaining a ‘Substantial’ grading [agenda p.47 refers];

·         Both IT audits were in areas not previously reviewed by Internal Audit [Appendix A para 15 agenda p.48 refers] and had revealed an historic under-funding of the Council’s IT capacity and capability. The appointment of the new IT Manager would help to take forward the Council’s new IT Strategy with appropriate funding and resources;

·         The audit of Contract Management [Appendix A para 16 agenda p.48 refers] had identified weaknesses within contract management and the need for more training and guidance for contract managers;

·         Transparency in Decision Making at Officer level  was the largest area for development, with over 20% of recommendations raised for improvements in this area across six audits [Appendix A paras 19 and 20 agenda p.49 refer];

·         Quality Assurance - the key oversight role of the Audit Board in the quality and effectiveness of the Internal Audit function was set out in paragraphs 29-33 of the Opinion [Appendix A agenda p.51] and the Quality Action Plan set out in detail at Annex F [agenda pages 75-79];

·         The External Quality Assessment of the Council’s Internal Audit function had been presented to the March meeting of the Board [Min. No. 77 refers] which had confirmed the Internal Audit team’s current focus and direction of travel.


In response to a number of follow-up questions from the Chairman and the Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Finance (in attendance as a Board Member), the Chief Officer & Director of Corporate Services and the Audit Manager confirmed the following additional points for the Board:


·         The outcome of the Council’s review of Home Working arrangements [post lock-down] would be shared with the Board [Appendix A para 13 agenda p.48]. Under the present Flexible Working Directive proposals [post 19 July] staff were required to work a minimum of 2 days in the Civic Centre and a maximum of 3 days working remotely from home. Further training was being rolled out to managers  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.


Annual Governance Statement 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 115 KB

Additional documents:


The report from the Head of Finance enclosed the Council’s 2020/21 Annual Governance Statement which covered the period 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 (attached as Appendix A to the report) for inclusion in the Annual Statement of Accounts, together with the Governance Action Plan for 2021/22 (Appendix B to the report). Appendix C [Annex 1] to the report provided an update on the Governance Action Plan 2020-21.


The covering report reminded the Board that the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 required the Council to prepare an annual governance statement each year, in addition to conducting at least once a year a review of the effectiveness of its systems of internal control, for inclusion in the annual statement of accounts as prepared in accordance with the CIPFA Code of Practice on Local Authority Accounting. The 2015 Regulations also placed a duty on the Council to ensure that Members considered the review and approved the findings, and were satisfied that the annual governance statement of accounts had been prepared in accordance with proper practices [report paras 3.1- 3.3 agenda p.83 refers].


The Head of Finance informed the Board that the Leader of the Council, Directors (past and present), the Section 151 Officer and the Internal Audit Manager had all reviewed the Council’s arrangements against the Local Code of Governance [which incorporates the CIPFA/SOLACE Principles] and agreed the 2020/21 Annual Governance Statement [Appendix A to the report] for approval by the Board. Appendix B detailed the review process and laid out the actions that had been determined through the review, and Appendix C [Annex 1] provide an update on the 2020/21 Action Plan.




1.    That the review of the Council’s Corporate Governance arrangements be noted;


2.    That the Annual Governance Statement 2020/21 attached as Appendix A to the report be approved for inclusion in the Annual Statement of Accounts, together with the Governance Action Plan for 2021/22 attached as Appendix B to the report.


Selective Invoice Checks (July 2021) pdf icon PDF 307 KB


Following the conclusion of the virtual meeting of the Board on 31 March 2021 the Chairman had selected five creditor payments for checking by Internal Audit (IA). The report summarised the outcomes of that exercise, which had been suspended for the January and March 2021 meetings of the Board, when the responsible IA Officer had been transferred the Council’s Community Hub to help combat Covid-19 in the Dartford community.


The Internal Audit Manager advised that 2 of the 5 creditor payments checked by Internal Audit had been made in compliance with the Council’s accounting procedures. The 3 creditor payments that had not, again revealed a failure by some purchasing Officers not to formally raise the appropriate Purchase Order for audit trail purposes, despite recent guidance issuing to that effect. The Internal Audit Manager advised that further monitoring would be necessary.


The Chairman advised that the Selective Invoice Check report may be suspended on occasion in the future, to enable the IA team to meet other work deadlines.




1.    That Members note the contents of the report;

2.    That Members select five further creditor payments for checking by Internal Audit.


Next Board Meeting


The Head of Finance advised Members that to comply with new deadlines for the submission of local government accounts, including the completion of work by the Council’s external auditors Grant Thornton UK, the Council’s Chief Officer and the Board Chairman had agreed that the October meeting of the Board would be brought forward to Wednesday 22 September 2021.


A confirmatory email would issue to Board Members following the meeting and the Council’s public website amended accordingly.