Report of the Director of Finance and Assurance
The Committee received a report from the Director of Finance and Assurance which set out the Annual Governance Statement (AGS) 2021/22.
The Head of Internal Audit and Corporate Anti-Fraud introduced the report, stating that the changes made to the Statement subsequent to the submission of the draft to the Committee in July were highlighted. Members were informed that the evidence table with details of the annual review of the cross Council approach had revealed a higher number of minor governance gaps than in recent years. It was noted that a detailed action plan would be submitted to the Committee to enable Members to track the progress of implementation.
A Member expressed concern that the Management Assurance exercise had confirmed that only around 50% of staff had received appraisals during 2021/22 and only 71% confirmed in the staff pulse survey that they had had regular conversations with their manager about their work and development. Furthermore, 14% of staff were unclear as to what was expected of them. She was concerned that staff were losing out and feeling undervalued. The Head of Internal Audit and Corporate Anti-Fraud stated that the Head of Organisational Development and CSB had already taken action to improve the position in the current year and progress would be included in the action plan.
The Director of Finance and Assurance undertook to inform the Members as to what percentage of the workforce were agency workers. It was noted that agency workers were not included in performance appraisal interviews but were represented in the pulse survey.
Another Member stated that it was the first time he had seen a qualified Opinion. The officer confirmed this position and stated that it had arisen due to the considerable amount of work undertaken on the significant governance gap identified in the 2020/21 Annual Governance Statement. The opinion had therefore been based on far fewer audit reviews and less audit coverage across the Council but was back on track already this year.
In response to a question regarding availability of finance for increased training provision, it was noted that a lot of work was being undertaken by the Organisational Development Team including new mandatory training on corporate anti-fraud.
A Member sought clarification as to whether the statement that no complaint had been received on the release of information regarding the significant governance gap was correct as he had been informed that there had been at least one.
The Chair referred to the new requirement that separate bodies created by local authorities should abide by Nolan principles of openness and publish their board agendas and minutes and annual reports in an accessible place. The officer stated that it was not a significant governance gap that this did not take place as it did not have a detrimental impact on the whole organisation. She further clarified that the requirement did not mention the publication of full financial reports.
The officer responded to a question on timescale, stating that contact would take place with all relevant managers with the aim to submit the action plan to the January GARMS meeting. It was noted that it would not be submitted to the Cabinet or Council as the assurance was delegated to the GARMS Committee.
(1) the Head of Internal Audit’s Final Audit Opinion 2021/22 be noted; and
(2) having reviewed the Annual Governance Statement 2021/22 in line with the Committee’s terms of reference, and confirmed that the Annual Governance Statement (AGS) properly reflected the risk environment and supporting assurances and legal and financial advice, taking into account internal audit’s opinion on the overall adequacy and effectiveness of the Council’s framework of governance, risk management and control; the Committee was satisfied and recommended it for approval by the Leader and Chief Executive.