Agenda item

Internal Audit Annual Report and Opinion

The Chief Internal Auditor to submit a report to satisfy the Accounts and Audit Regulations by providing Members with the opportunity to consider a report from the Head of the Council’s Internal Audit function on the performance of Internal Audit during the year and the ‘Internal Audit Opinion’ on the Council’s system of internal control and its arrangements for risk management and governance.


The Chief Internal Auditor introduced the report which set out the Internal Audit Annual Report and Opinion for 2021/22 in line with the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards and which would inform the Council’s Annual Governance Statement.


Ms Ashley-Caunt advised that Appendix A provided the Annual Report which included the detailed Internal Audit opinion on the Council’s control framework for 2021/22 and the basis for this opinion. The overall assurance opinion for 2021/22 was satisfactory and was consistent with the last few years at Melton and with those comparable authorities within her Council group. The report recognised that there were areas of weakness and improvement which had been addressed throughout the year and there were action plans in place. Generally there were good controls in place and there were no fundamental weaknesses which undermined the satisfactory opinion at this time.


The opinion reflected the significance of issues highlighted in internal audit reviews and the actions taken by management following audit recommendations.


Delivery against the audit plan had been reported to the Audit and Standards Committee during 2021/22 and a summary of the 5 reviews that had been finalised since the last committee meeting were provided within the Annual Report. The report also provided an overview of the implementation of agreed actions arising from audit assignments in 2021/22, investigation activity and conformance with the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards.


Ms Ashley-Caunt outlined the findings and levels of assurance from each of the reviews finalised since the last meeting as follows:


·       Financial System Key Controls

·       Starters and Leavers

·       Planning Service Review

·       Planning Enforcement

·       Temporary Accommodation


Members raised points on each area as follows:


Financial Systems and Sundry Debtors

It was noted that progress had been held up due to the pandemic and the Revenues Team was working with the Chair of Scrutiny on the analysis of debt, Council and Business Tax as well as Housing rents and this would be considered at a future Scrutiny meeting.


A Member felt that the Council did not chase debt enough and debt was increasing all the time. However it was also considered a balanced approach was needed as those in debt were most likely to be the lowest paid and also needed the Council’s support, especially as people were struggling in these difficult economic times.


It was noted that assurances of debt management was needed as well as how this was perceived by the public; there was a balance to be reached on how the Council approached debt.


The Director for Corporate Services explained that the overall level of debt was not increasing and new debt was being recovered but older debt was remaining somewhat static. Council tax and business rates collection levels were quite high performing in comparison to other Council areas but there were difficulties in collecting rents and sundry debts. It should be taken into account that some of those people would be on benefits and needed support. The Council had to consider which of  the long-standing older debt was economical to pursue.


Starters and Leavers

Members were concerned that equipment was not handed back by leavers. The Director for Corporate Services advised that there was a new procedure in place which involved more updated record-keeping and enabled quick escalation if equipment was not returned. It was the manager’s responsibility to ensure equipment and the door card were returned and exit interviews were facilitated by HR. However should equipment not immediately be handed in, access to the Council’s systems could be blocked as could entry passes.


Planning Service Review and Planning Enforcement

Paul Feehily, the Interim Assistant Director for Planning was in attendance to respond on queries relating to the planning review and planning enforcement.


There were concerns regarding the history of the enforcement role and the split between planning and licensing enforcement. It was felt that both needed resourcing but licensing was not getting enough time allocated and assurance was requested for this to be addressed.


Mr Feehily responded that in partial response to Internal Audit’s review of planning enforcement, the Council had agreed to the establishment of a new dedicated, full-time, permanent Planning Enforcement Officer role. The post was out to recruitment at the time of the meeting and candidates would be expected to demonstrate appropriate planning knowledge, experience and qualifications. The previous part-time shared role with environmental, licensing and planning had been the outcome of an earlier structural review and had not proved wholly successful in meeting the demands of enforcement. The new arrangement would go some way to address these acknowledged deficiencies.


Members felt that developers were aware of the lack of enforcement ability at the Council and at times felt this was exploited as these companies knew there was little chance of matters being followed up.


It was felt that the planning service brought revenue to the Council and therefore the service should remain adequately funded to retain officers and expertise and not be subject to dilution and mergers with other services.


Temporary Accommodation

It was raised that there were instances where people were housed in homes that were locationally not suited to them or their lifestyle, often in villages, and this in turn made an unsatisfactory situation for both the resident and existing neighbours.




That the Committee NOTED the Internal Audit Annual Report and Opinion.

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