Agenda item


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The Senior Internal Auditor presented the report which provided the proposed Strategic Internal Audit Plan for 2023/24 to 2026/27, the Annual Internal Audit Plan for 2023/24 and the Internal Audit Charter.  The Committee was informed that the plan would provide the basis for the Annual Audit Opinion on the overall adequacy and effectiveness of the Council’s framework of governance, risk management.


The Committee was advised that the Charter and Internal Audit Strategy outlined how the internal audit function was set up and formal documents.  The Senior Internal Auditor explained that this was particularly wordy and invited Members to focus on the areas set out below:


-           Strategic Internal Audit Plan

-           Annual Audit Plan 2023/24


The Senior Internal Auditor informed the Committee that section 1.4 of the report outlined the areas that had been considered for the development of the plan. The Internal Audit Team  produced the strategic audit plan based upon all those details which was being presented to the Committee today.


The Committee was informed that to produce the plans, the Internal Audit Team had set out all the auditable areas and reviewed those against previous audits and reviews and then discussed these holding one-to-one sessions with all of the responsible officers across the organisation for these areas. The risks had been identified against each area. The Internal Audit Team had good conversations with each of the Assistant Directors/responsible officers and had linked back the plan to the Corporate Risk Register.


It was noted that the Internal Audit Team had set 323 audit days over a total of 22 audit reviews for 2023/24. The Senior Internal Auditor advised that 50 days of this time related to audit management work undertaken by Eastern Internal Audit Services in accordance with the Council’s agreement in place with them. This covered areas such as quality assurance, follow up, advice and guidance, Audit Committee papers and attendance.


Audit days had been calculated considering other work commitments such as Anti-Fraud and Anti-Corruption related work, training and development and other non-chargeable time (including Project related work – such as assisting with the Energy Rebate Schemes, and recently assisting with the due diligence and fraud risk controls around UKSPF and REPF schemes, other areas will be looked at during the year such as testing of Disabled Facilities Grants for the purposes of the Better Care Fund annual declaration.


Internal Audit Charter


This essentially had not had any changes made to it since last year, as there had been no changes to how the internal audit function was set up.


Strategic Audit Plan (this should be Appendix 3 not 2)


Outlined the associated risks and justification for each audit area and plotted the audit days allocated for each area and the year they were currently assigned to them.


Annual Internal Audit Plan 23/24 (Appendix 4)


Provided concise details of each planned audit for 2023/24 including the quarter and number of days assigned for each audit.


The Committee was invited to approve the plan, the Internal Audit Team would then focus on its delivery.  The Senior Internal Auditor commented that any questions or comments on the plan would be welcomed.  Members were also asked to identify if there was anything not on the plan that had been expected to see.


In response to a question from the Chair on the Internal Audit Charter 2023/2024, the Senior Internal Auditor explained that there were no major amendments, but a brush touch approach had been applied and drew the Committee’s attention to the table at 2.1 and explained that an amendment had been made in previous versions the 0.7 FTE Auditor.


The Senior Internal Auditor responded to questions in relation to the consideration of appointing an independent person(s) in the future.  Councillor Morley requested that this action point be followed through to the work programme for the new Audit Committee post May 2023 Election.


In response to questions from Councillor Morley, the Senior Internal Auditor provided an overview on the number of staff within the Internal Audit Team, together with an explanation as to how the number of audit days were calculated for the delivery of the Internal Audit Plan 2023/2024 and added that a contingency had been built in.


Following further questions from the Chair on the planned number of audit days, the Senior Internal Auditor explained that 50 hours had been allocated for management provided by Eastern Internal Audit Services.


The Senior Internal Auditor provided clarification on the contract arrangement with Eastern Internal Audit Services.


Councillor Gidney commented on the technical aspects of the presentation and added that an A3 paper copy would be preferable and also went on to say that it was difficult to cross reference items in the current format.


Councillor Morley concurred with the comments made by Councillor Gidney and asked that an action point be recorded to look at ideas on how to present the information in a more understandable format and to focus on the key issues and high risk areas.


Councillor Rust expressed concern on the number of audit days scheduled for the high risk areas, that some items had been deferred and that there was a lack of consistent language used, for example, definition of substantive.  In response, the Senior Internal Auditor provided and explanation of the following current assurance options as set out below and undertook to circulate a copy to the Committee:


·         Substantial Assurance.

·         Reasonable Assurance.

·         Limited Assurance.

·         No Assurance.


Following further questions and comments from Councillor Rust, the Senior Internal Auditor advised that details of last year’s audits  which included payroll, pay award and Alive West Norfolk, together with recommendations would be presented to the Audit Committee at the June 2023 meeting.  The Committee’s attention was drawn to Appendix 2 – Strategic Internal Audit Plan which set out the details of the audit area, last review and assurance, associated risk, number of days allocated within the next 4 year plan.


The Chair, Councillor Devereux explained the difference between the levels of assurance and the level of risk and informed Members they were two separate areas.


Councillor Morley commented on the following areas:


·         Contract Management 2022/2023 – limited risk.

·         Full Capital Programme and project management framework – identify high risk areas, procurement, etc.

·         Proposals in relation to project management recommended by the Technical Adviser yet to be embedded.

·         Importance of training to be scheduled for the Audit Committee.


The Chair, Councillor Devereux commented that training would be included in the Audit Committee Work Programme 2023/2024,


In response to the comments made by Councillor Morley, the Senior Internal Auditor explained that a recent audit had been undertaken on the Towns Fund, procurement, economic growth and a follow up audit would be scheduled for the project management framework.


Following comments made by Councillor Gidney on large projects and some projects being delivered over budget, the Assistant Director – Resources explained that the Council regularly reviews how the resources are allocated to projects and in some cases it was necessary to bring in external support when the Council did not have the relevant skills to deliver a project.  The Committee was informed that the Council now had a Project Accountant within the Finance Team who worked with project officers across the Council.  However this was a learning process and the project management processes proposed by the Technical Adviser would be implemented and taken forward to ensure there were the relevant control and due diligence measures in place.


Councillor Morley reference to a Cabinet report of 16 November 2021 relating to the climate change and an annual report being produced and the current position.  The Chair, Councillor Devereux explained that policies, process, etc were being developed and provided an overview of the role of the Audit Committee.  The Chair added in his personal view that the correct place for climate change/sustainability was the Corporate Performance Panel and potentially Cabinet to look at how it operated and performed.


The Assistant Director, Resources concurred with the comments made by the Chair, Councillor Devereux and explained that the role of the Audit Committee was to seek assurance that the correct controls were in place.  Members were advised that if any gaps were identified these could be considered to be included in the audit plan.  The Audit Plan now being presented to the Committee outlined the Internal Audit Plan for April 2023 to March 2024 and for the forthcoming 4 years. In conclusion, the Assistant Director, Resources explained that over the 4 year period there would be a review of audit priorities where consideration of any recommendations against priorities could be undertaken and built into the audit plan using contingency days if needed.


Councillor Rust commented that procurement and contract management had previously received a limited assurance but had not been scheduled until 2024/2025 and asked if this would be re-looked at and brought forward.  In response, the Assistant Director explained that the Committee had not seen the results of some audits but was happy to discuss the concerns raised with the Internal Audit Team.


The Chair, Councillor Devereux reminded the Committee that this was an evolving process and that reports were considered by Management Team and actions points agreed.  However, if a service area had rejected the findings this would be a concern for the Audit Committee and appropriate action would be taken with the Chief Executive and appropriate officer.  It was noted that the audit results report would be presented to the Committee in June 2023.


The Committee approved the recommendations set out below subject to any amendments required to be reported back to the Audit Committee.


Councillor Morley added that the comments/concerns, work to be taken forward identified by the current committee should be reported to the new Audit Committee following the May 2023 Election.


RESOLVED:  The Audit Committee approved the following:


a)            Internal Audit Charter 2023/24.


b)            The Internal Audit Strategy 2023/24.


c)            The Strategic Plan 2023/24 to 2026/27.


d)            For Audit Committee to consider each audit area for the year ahead and approve the plan of work for 2023/24.


Supporting documents: