Agenda and draft minutes

Audit and Governance Committee - Thursday, 17th March, 2022 6.00 pm

Venue: Committee Suite, Civic Centre, Poole BH15 2RU. View directions

Contact: Bob Hanton  Email: democratic.services@bcpcouncil.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

85.

Apologies

To receive any apologies for absence from Councillors.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Fear and Filer.

Councillor Rice was unable to formally attend the meeting and vote but joined the meeting remotely.

86.

Substitute Members

To receive information on any changes in the membership of the Committee.

 

Note – When a member of a Committee is unable to attend a meeting of a Committee or Sub-Committee, the relevant Political Group Leader (or their nominated representative) may, by notice to the Monitoring Officer (or their nominated representative) prior to the meeting, appoint a substitute member from within the same Political Group. The contact details on the front of this agenda should be used for notifications.

 

Minutes:

Formal notification had been received appointing Councillor Kelsey as substitute for Councillor Fear and Councillor J Butt as substitute for Councillor Filer.

87.

Declarations of Interests

Councillors are requested to declare any interests on items included in this agenda. Please refer to the workflow on the preceding page for guidance.

Declarations received will be reported at the meeting.

Minutes:

Councillor Cox declared his occupation as an Auditor.

88.

Confirmation of Minutes

To confirm as a correct record the minutes of the Meeting held on 10 March 2022 (To follow).

Minutes:

The Committee noted that the statistical information reported to the Committee on 3 February 2022 about grants and awards made and as set out in Minute 78 of the Minutes approved by the Committee contained two items for typographical correction and it was agreed by the Committee that the relevant part of the Minute should read as follows:

-         24 Local Restrictions Support Grant (Sector) payments worth £17.7K;

-         41 Local Restrictions Support Grant Closed payments worth £76.6K.

The Minutes of the meeting on 10 March 2022 as circulated separately to the Committee were confirmed as a correct record.

 

89.

Public Issues

To receive any public questions, statements or petitions submitted in accordance with the Constitution. Further information on the requirements for submitting these is available to view at the following link:-

https://democracy.bcpcouncil.gov.uk/documents/s2305/Public%20Items%20-%20Meeting%20Procedure%20Rules.pdf 

The deadline for the submission of public questions is 10 March 2022.

The deadline for the submission of a statement is 12.00 noon, 16 March 2022.

The deadline for the submission of a petition was12.00 noon, 2 March 2022.

Minutes:

The Committee was advised of the receipt of the following Public Question.

Question

REGARDING COUNCIL’S CONTINUING WEBSITE “LINK” FAILURES IMPEDING & DENYING ACCESS IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN TO ESSENTIAL INFORMATION

Will this regulatory Committee recommend that the Council’s website be urgently reviewed for broken links preventing ready access to vital governance information and protocols?

Examples –

- Unacceptably long inaccessibility of information regarding Members’ Allowances via the designated portal which, wrongly, also required password log-on. First notified by me in writing 5 months before eventual rectification 7.1.22

- Likewise today, inoperative links on this meeting’s agenda frontsheet & reports packs regarding item 5 “Public Issues”. Particularly germane because those links provide explanation of the putative eligibility criteria for such Issues - contained in the Constitution but which should not necessitate that level of research.

Philip Gatrell 10 March 2022

Response

It is confirmed that broken weblinks will be identified as a matter of urgency and corrected as quickly as possible.

 

The Committee thanked the member of the public for his question. The Chairman of the Committee confirmed that questions from the public which complied with the provisions of the BCP Constitution were welcomed at the appropriate meetings of the Committee.

90.

External Audit - Audit Progress 2020/21 pdf icon PDF 248 KB

Grant Thornton, as the Council’s appointed External Auditors, have produced a report (Appendix A) which provides an update to Audit and Governance Committee on their progress to date in delivering their responsibilities.

 

The report states that, as previously reported, a number of matters had arisen that delayed completion of their 2020/21 opinion audit.

 

Work has now been substantially completed however there are two key areas that have impacted on the revised completion timetable of the end of February 2022 covering pension liabilities assurance from the Pension Fund auditor and national infrastructure accounting issues.

 

Grant Thornton intends to keep Audit & Governance Committee appraised of progress towards completion of the audit.

 

Work has been completed on certification of claims and returns for the Council, as detailed in the report.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The External Auditor, Grant Thornton, presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'A' to these Minutes in the Minute Book.

The report provided an update for the Committee on progress to date in delivering Grant Thornton’s audit responsibilities and, since last reporting to the Committee, progress had been made with certification of claims and returns completed in the areas of Teacher Pensions, Housing Benefit Subsidy and Housing Capital receipts pooling.

The report explained, however, that, as previously reported, a number of matters continued to delay completion of their 2020/21 opinion audit. The Committee was informed that, primarily, the key areas impacting on the completion timetable were delay in work undertaken by the Auditors of the Dorset Pension Fund and a national issue regarding the accounting of infrastructure assets, both issues that were beyond the control of the BCP Council.

Grant Thornton set out the steps that they were taking to expedite completion. The Director of Finance emphasised the Council’s frustration at the process and concerns about the impact that the delay was having on the work of the Audit and Governance Committee, on Council Officers and upon the integrity of the audit process overall.

There was also a concern about how the additional work being undertaken by Grant Thornton would be reflected in the audit fee. Although in respect of the Pension Fund the main issue was the awaited receipt of the Letter of Assurance, Grant Thornton reported that there was less certainty about how the assets and infrastructure issue would be resolved. They did, however consider that the extra work likely to be required would have implications in terms of fees. Any required adjustment to fees would be discussed with the Director of Finance and brought back to the Committee in the usual way.

The Chairman explained that, for his part, he had also raised the issue with the Dorset Pension Fund through his role as the Council’s representative on the Pension Fund underlining the importance which rested upon receiving the Letter of Assurance from the Pension Fund Auditors as soon as possible.

Grant Thornton confirmed that they were keen to start work on the audit of the 2021/22 accounts, with a view to completing the work in November 2022, despite delays in relation to the 2020/21 accounts.

The Committee was clear that it should understand the reasons behind these delays and whether the reasons for the delay were administrative or significant. In response to questions from the Committee, Grant Thornton provided further details of the steps being taken by them and undertook to take further steps to obtain the required Letter of Assurance. There was also discussion about whether a ‘qualified’ opinion could be issued and this was accepted as an option. Grant Thornton explained that whilst audit procedures already covered infrastructure there was now additional challenge required to satisfy the national requirements and there remained some uncertainty about the scope of the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 90.

91.

Tendering for Consultants

To receive a presentation about the governance arrangements for the appointment of consultants following Public Procurement Regulations and the Councils Financial Regulations including thresholds and authorisations requirements.

 

Minutes:

The Committee received a presentation from the Head of Strategic Procurement describing the arrangements in place under the Council’s Financial Regulations for the appointment of individuals or organisations where current Council employees did not have the necessary expertise or where existing in-house capability was insufficient. The financial thresholds for approval and appointment were set out and the various procurement routes and stages of the open competition process and of the Framework process were explained. Specific procurements were described as examples of the different available approaches.

In response to questions, it was also explained that although open advertising was required for the higher value procurement it was encouraged at all levels. The scoring methods used to rate prospective suppliers were described with emphasis on both quality and price and the use of pre-qualifier criteria. It was also reported that whilst during the period of the Covid pandemic some requirements had been relaxed on an emergency basis, those provisions had now ended.

The Committee was reassured that, although there were currently proposed a significant number of changes to the Procurement parts of the Financial Regulations, these changes were not about content but represented a re-ordering of the Regulations and changes in presentation and headings intended to make the Regulations easier for practitioners to understand and apply.

The Chairman thanked the Head of Strategic Procurement for the presentation and copies of the supporting slides would be circulated to members of the Committee.

92.

Financial Regulations - Annual evolution for the financial year 2022/23 pdf icon PDF 239 KB

Evolutionary changes to the Council’s Financial Regulations are summarised in this report and shown in red text throughout the document at Appendix A. 

The use of gender specific language has been removed.

Part G, Procurement and Contract Procedures, has been subject to changes to the format, numbering and ordering to more naturally follow the order of activity associated in a procurement process.  Whilst this appears as red text, indicating a change from the previous year, in practice the actual regulation requirements have not significantly changed.

In line with government requirements, all contract value estimations, when applying to thresholds, are VAT inclusive.

The heading ‘Pooled Budgets’ has been added to the External Arrangements, Part H so there is no ambiguity that Pooled Budgets are a form of external arrangement.

A new BCP Debt Management policy, at Appendix B, brings together legacy policies and details the Council’s corporate approach to billing, collection and recovery of monies due to the Council. Director Strategy Group approved the policy on 22 February 2022 and it is now being brought to Audit and Governance Committee as part of the annual evolution of Financial Regulations as it contains key supplementary detail.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Audit and Management Assurance presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'B' to these Minutes in the Minute Book.

The report summarised evolutionary changes to the Council’s Financial Regulations with proposed changes shown in red text throughout the document which was set out at Appendix A to the report.  Members were reminded that an ‘annual evolution’ approach ensured that the Council’s Financial Regulations remained up-to-date and relevant within a fast changing internal and external environment

The primary changes were described including removal of the use of gender specific language and changes to Part G, Procurement and Contract Procedures. It was explained that the changes to Part G were to the format, numbering and ordering to more naturally follow the order of activity associated with the procurement process.  Whilst these appeared as red text, indicating a change from the previous year, in practice the actual regulation requirements had not significantly changed.

Additionally, and in line with government requirements, all contract value estimations, when applying to thresholds, were now shown as VAT inclusive. The heading ‘Pooled Budgets’ had also been added to the External Arrangements, Part H, to make it clear that ‘Pooled Budgets’ were a form of external arrangement.

A new BCP Debt Management policy, set out at Appendix B to the report, was presented to the Committee and would bring together legacy policies and detail the Council’s corporate approach to billing, collection and recovery of monies due to the Council. It was reported that the Director Strategy Group had approved the new policy on 22 February 2022 and, as it contained key supplementary detail, it was being brought to Audit and Governance Committee for the Committee to note as part of the annual evolution of Financial Regulations.

RECOMMENDED TO COUNCIL

That the evolutionary annual changes to the BCP Council Financial Regulations as shown in Appendix A of the report to the Audit and Governance Committee be approved and adopted.

Voting: Unanimous

RESOLVED that the Audit and Governance Committee notes the new BCP Debt Management Policy as shown in Appendix B of the report to the Committee.

Voting: Unanimous

93.

Annual Evolution (for the 2022/23 financial year) of the 'Anti-Fraud & Corruption Policy', the 'Whistleblowing Policy', the 'Declaration of Interests, Gifts & Hospitality Policy' (for Officers) and the 'Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) and the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) Policy. pdf icon PDF 268 KB

An annual review of the Council’s:

·        Anti-Fraud & Corruption Policy,

·        Whistleblowing Policy,

·        Declaration of Interests, Gifts & Hospitality Policy (for Officers),

·        Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) and Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) Policy,

has taken place to ensure they are updated in line with best practice and legislation.

Some minor changes have been made to the Council’s Anti-Fraud & Corruption Policy including updating/simplifying the definition of corruption along with other wording and contact detail amendments.

The Whistleblowing Policy has been updated following a review against best practice in the ISO37002 Whistleblowing Management Systems guidelines. Some other changes have been made including clarifying that the Policy’s primary purpose is to deal with disclosures relating to Council business and also explaining the process for employees raising safeguarding concerns.

Several changes have been made to the Council’s Declaration of Interests, Gifts & Hospitality Policy (for Officers) including clarifying the need for officers to comply with the policy when ‘local arrangements’ may exist, clarifying officer responsibilities under the policy, providing further guidance/clarification on gifts and also making declaration forms clearer on how the approving manager has made their decision about any declarations and the need, or not, for any measures to manage actual or perceived conflicts. A ‘frequently asked questions’ section has also been included in the policy.

The previous Regulation of Investigatory Power Act (RIPA) Policy has been strengthened to include provision for acquiring communications data so is now more explicitly and accurately titled, Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) and Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) Policy. 

The strengthened sections include a statement that the scenario of BCP acquiring communications data, using the IPA provisions, is unlikely to be used. However, should the need ever arise, the strengthened sections include the process for a Council nominated Authorising Officer to give approval for IPA communications data access/acquisition and is reflected in the Accessing Communications Data Flowchart (Appendix E to the Policy).

Some amendments have been made to Appendix B (RIPA Authorisation Process) including use of necessary forms and clarification that surveillance can only take place until the expiry date is reached. A section has also been added for Policy consultation, equalities impact assessment date and document control.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Audit and Management Assurance presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'C' to these Minutes in the Minute Book.

 

Following an annual review to ensure that they were in line with best practice and current legislation, the report provided an annual review of the Council’s policies for Anti-Fraud Policy & Corruption, Whistleblowing, Declaration of Interests, Gifts & Hospitality Policy (for Officers), Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) and Investigatory Powers Act (IPA). These four policies formed part of the Council’s governance arrangements for preventing, detecting and acting upon fraud and corruption. The Committee received an overview of the changes to the various policies.

 

It was explained that some minor changes had been made to the Council’s Anti-Fraud & Corruption Policy including updating and simplifying the definition of corruption along with other wording and contact detail amendments.

The Whistleblowing Policy had been updated following a review against best practice in the ISO37002 Whistleblowing Management Systems guidelines. Some other changes had been made including providing clarification that the Policy’s primary purpose was to deal with disclosures relating to Council business and also explaining the process for employees raising safeguarding concerns.

Several changes had been made to the Council’s Declaration of Interests, Gifts & Hospitality Policy (for Officers) including clarifying the need for Officers to comply with the policy when ‘local arrangements’ may exist, clarifying officer responsibilities under the policy and providing further guidance and clarification on gifts. The declaration forms had been made clearer on setting out how the approving manager had made their decision about any declarations and the need, or not, for any measures to manage actual or perceived conflicts. A ‘frequently asked questions’ section had also been included in the policy.

The previous Regulation of Investigatory Power Act (RIPA) Policy had been strengthened to include provision for acquiring communications data and now more explicitly and accurately titled, Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) and Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) Policy.  The strengthened sections included a statement that the scenario of BCP acquiring communications data, using the IPA provisions, was unlikely to be used. However, should the need ever arise, the strengthened sections included the process for a Council nominated Authorising Officer to give approval for IPA communications data access and acquisition. This was also now reflected in the Accessing Communications Data Flowchart (Appendix E to the Policy).

Some amendments had also been made to Appendix B (RIPA Authorisation Process) including use of necessary forms and clarification that surveillance can only take place until the expiry date is reached. A section had also been added for Policy consultation, equalities impact assessment date and document control.

 

The Head of Audit and Management Assurance provided examples and confirmed that the policies referred to in the report had been in place since the inception of the BCP Council, were operating well and had passed the test of time. It was also explained that the policies were currently being reviewed by  ...  view the full minutes text for item 93.

94.

Forward Plan refresh pdf icon PDF 215 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Audit and Management Assurance presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix 'D' to these Minutes in the Minute Book.

The Plan set out the reports to be considered by the Audit and Governance Committee for the 2021/22 municipal year in order to enable it to fulfil its terms of reference.

The Committee noted that the next meeting of the Committee, on 31 March 2022, was a single-item meeting to consider proposals relating to the provisions within the Constitution for overview and scrutiny.

The final core business meeting was therefore on 14 April 2022 at which meeting the Committee would receive, for approval, a full draft Forward Plan for the next Municipal Year.

Although there would be an item on the agenda of the meeting on 14 April on Statement of Accounts, it was noted that, by necessity, this may be merely the provision of a further update.

The Chairman reminded the Committee that he continued to seek suggestions for items for particular in-depth consideration and that he would write again to the Committee to re-enforce this. Items already identified for consideration in the new Municipal Year included review of Insurance arrangements and of Risk Management as well as the receipt of some additional recommendations to come through to the Committee from the Constitution Review Working Group.

It was also noted that follow-up action identified by the Committee at its previous meeting relating to ‘BCP FuturePlaces’ was underway with, initially, the outcome of an update on that work going to the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Committee. The Chairman confirmed that if there were any further issues arising from the update which required further report to the Committee, an item would be added to the agenda for a future meeting as appropriate.