This report provides Members with an update on the work, outputs and performance of the Audit & Counter Fraud Team for the period 1 April to 31 August 2020This report provides Members with an update on the work, outputs and performance of the Audit & Counter Fraud Team for the period 1 April to 31 August 2020.
This report provided details of an update on the work, outputs and performance of the Audit and Counter Fraud Team for the period 1 April to 31 August 2020. The Head of Audit and Counter Fraud Shared Service advised the Committee of the key issues in the report. He advised the Committee of some errors in page 18 of the Agenda papers, namely the Leisure Centre, SEND Education and Temporary Accommodation reviews which should have been shown as having amber opinions.
Members then raised a number of questions and comments which included:
Asset Management and Building Repair and Maintenance Fund and HRA Capital Repairs and Maintenance Work Allocation – in response to a question seeking clarity as to what was being audited in these two areas, the Head of Audit and Counter Fraud Shared Service explained that the items listed at item 7 (Asset Management and Building Repair and Maintenance Fund) had initially started as two separate reviews but were subsequently pulled together owing to an overlap between the reviews and that these related to the Council’s office accommodation whereas item 16 (HRA Capital Works and Maintenance Work Allocation) looked at the Council’s housing stock, including any commercial properties under the HRA. Reference was also made to some issues in Twydall relating to Council properties.
Covid 19 – in response to a question relating to whether the Audit and Counter Fraud Team would be redeployed again to deal with the response to any future Covid 19 related issues, the Head of Audit and Counter Fraud stated that at the beginning of the pandemic, the Team was identified as non-critical and was therefore redeployed elsewhere in the Council to assist with the response to the pandemic. He further advised that a lot of catch up work had since been undertaken during the recovery process, via a revised work plan. He advised that there was no current indication that the Team would be shut down again. He also advised that one of the key work areas arising from the pandemic would relate to fraud.
Committee Members expressed concern as to the resourcing of the Team given the amount of catch up work required. It was also suggested that the Team should not be shut down as it was necessary to undertake its normal work (and to catch up on work) given the risk any such a decision would create. The Chief Legal Officer advised the Committee that the Council was a category one responder during the emergency, this meant that the Council would have to assist across the region to respond to the pandemic. The Council had moved from a recovery phase back to a response phase which meant the Council would have to ensure essential services were delivered and whilst the Committee’s comments could be reflected in the Head of Audit and Counter Fraud’s risk plan, there was no guarantee that the Team would not be redeployed.
Outstanding implementation of recommendations – in response to a question relating to the need to chase outstanding implementation of audit recommendations as set out on page 43 of the Agenda, the Chief Legal Officer, with reference to MCG, stated that a new Chief Executive had recently been appointed and he would take up this matter with the new Chief Executive on behalf of the Committee.
Committee Members discussed the issue of the outstanding implementation of Audit recommendations at length and how the Committee could assist to improve matters, for example, a role for the Chairman to be made aware of non-implementation at the earliest opportunity and to be involved in resolving matters and, only if necessary, relevant Managers attending the Committee to explain the reasons for non-implementation. It was suggested that it was necessary to ensure that only high risk non-implementation matters be dealt with by the Committee. The Chief Finance Officer advised on the current process within the Council for dealing with non-implementation.
The Chairman undertook to further discuss this matter with the Head of Audit and Counter Fraud outside the meeting.
Whistleblowing – in response to a question relating to the non-implementation of the three recommendations as set out in page 39 of the agenda, the Chief Legal Officer stated that there was an item later on the Agenda where he could advise further.
Award of Government Payments during the Pandemic – in response to a question about how the Council would be required to report to Government the process of how it had made payments of Government grants during the pandemic and the sums involved, the Head of Audit and Counter Fraud advised that his Team and the Revenue Team had been involved in the set up for the processing of applications and referred to some of the prevention steps taken to ensure, for example, there were no duplicate payments where a paper and an online application had been made in error. He also advised that over £36M had been paid in business support grants and over £1.8M in discretionary award grants.
Training and Development – In response to a question concerning the achievement of only 20% of the target (PM5 – page 34 of the Agenda), the Head of Audit and Counter Fraud advised that this only related to the period from April to August so did not reflect the full year figure.
The Committee noted the outputs and performance of the Audit and Counter Fraud Service for Medway for the period 1 April to 31 August 2020 as detailed at Appendix 1 to the report.