The Head of the Worcestershire Internal Audit Shared Service presented the Worcestershire Internal Audit Annual Report for 2018/19. During the presentation of the report the following points were highlighted for Members’ consideration:
· The report incorporated a combination of all of the update reports that had been provided to the Committee during the 2018/19 municipal year.
· Any risks identified during internal audits were raised for the attention of the Executive Director of Finance and Corporate Resources.
· There was a slight difference between the number of planned audit days and the number that had actually been undertaken, due to the Internal Audit team reviewing the core financial systems on a rolling basis over quarter 1 to 3 and due to the nature of the reviews requiring some additional resource.
· There had been an increase in the number of high priority recommendations that had been issued by the Internal Audit team. However, the majority of findings had been moderate.
· There had also been an increase in the number of limited assurance levels that had been identified. A lot of action was being taken by Officers to address this.
· Any exceptions of concern were reported to the Audit, Governance and Standards Committee. In the previous year an exception had been reported in relation to Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) and the Internal Audit team had therefore monitored this area closely during the year.
· Housing Services also continued to be closely monitored, following the identification of a number of issues within the department a few years previously.
· The Internal Audit team undertook a self-assessment at the end of each year to identify areas that could be improved. The Head of the Worcestershire Internal Audit Shared Service had identified five areas for improvement and these would be addressed by December 2019.
Following the presentation of the report Members discussed a number of areas in detail:
· The questionnaires that were issued to fourth-tier managers and the issue with resources that had been raised in their responses. This had been raised as an area of concern by some officers. However, this did not necessarily mean that lack of resources was a significant risk.
· The possibility that sufficient staff numbers were in place but that they were not structured appropriately. For example Members were advised that the DWP had found the Council had sufficient staff in the Benefits team but too few managers so new managers had been employed and there were now three team leaders for the service.
· The potential implications of audits where limited assurance was identified. Members were informed that any internal audits that identified limited assurance were considered by the whole of the Corporate Management Team (CMT) and not just by individual Heads of Service.
· The limited assurance in respect of Benefits Services and the implications for vulnerable residents. The Committee was informed that the Council’s approach to delivering this service had changed and significant improvements had been made.
· The potential impact that financial cuts as well as savings could have on service delivery and the need to avoid reducing resources to the point where services no longer remained sustainable.
· The proportion of Internal Audits that identified limited assurance for the Council. Members commented that this was relatively high when compared to other public sector organisations.
· The need for Members to be provided with assurances that there were no areas in respect of health and safety, identified during an Internal Audit, that could cause harm. Officers agreed to provide a copy of the update in respect of this matter that had been considered at a recent meeting of the Joint Corporate Health, Safety and Welfare Committee.
· The impact that the recruitment of four new members of staff had had on the Internal Audit Shared Service. Members were advised that this had primarily impacted on the service in the first six months of their employment, as they settled into their roles, but the staff were now fully embedded within the team.
the report be noted