The Committee received and considered report 38/08 of the Audit Manager, which summarised the outcomes of recent internal audit activity for the Committee to consider. The Committee reviewed the report and the main issues arising and sought assurance that action would be taken where necessary.
The Committee noted that there were seventeen audit reports that had been completed in the period since its last meeting. Most had resulted in Internal Audit awarding a 'satisfactory' or 'full' assurance rating. Members were generally satisfied with the outcome of these audits but asked for further assurance in the five audits that had only achieved a 'limited' assurance rating and sought answers in some cases where a satisfactory rating had been given.
A limited assurance rating had been given to this service following the recent audit. Members asked several questions.
Members noted that a member of staff who had left Capita's employment had had their User ID retained to enable reports to be run. Members noted that the password had been changed since and the former member of staff would no longer be able to access the Agresso system.
It was reported that the Best Value Performance Indicator 8, regarding the payment of invoices on time, was more complicated to collate under the new version of the Agresso software. A request had been made to Agresso to fix this problem. In the meantime a solution had been agreed and it was hoped that this would be introduced over the next month.
The Chief Finance Officer accepted that there had previously been an issue over the same member of staff being able to requisition an order and approve it. However, this was no longer possible under the latest version of the Agresso software. Controls had been introduced to stop this.
With regard to the process for checking that duplicate payments were not made, it was noted that these checks were made every month following the receipt of a report from Capita. Members felt that monthly checks should be made a standard.
Members noted that the Financial Regulations would be reviewed this summer and were due to be considered by the Constitution Advisory Group in September.
Although this audit had resulted in a satisfactory assurance rating, a concern was expressed at the security at election counts. It was requested that this should be fed back to the Elections manager for consideration. Also, Members sought to know whether this Council submitted reports to the Government on fraud monitoring during an election. The Audit Manager agreed to take this up with the service manager.
White Horse Leisure and Tennis Centre
This audit had received a 'limited' assurance rating. It was noted that the managers responsible for this service were unable to attend the meeting due to other commitments. In the absence of the relevant manager, it was agreed to defer this audit report to the next meeting of the Committee in September.
Members raised a point about contract monitoring generally, not just this contract. They felt that every single contract let by the Council should be monitored and assurance should be given to Members that the contracts were running smoothly or problems should be reported. It was noted that a Contract Monitoring Audit was due to take place later this year and this could be considered at that stage.
This audit had received a 'limited' assurance rating. Members noted that since 2006, there had been little activity from the Data Protection Officer Group as the Chairman and Data Protection Officer had left the Council. However, the Head of Legal Services reported that he intended to review the policy and guidance and tackle the recommendations contained in the audit. He pointed to the work carried out by ICT staff in issuing regular reminder e-mails to all staff on data protection issues and hoped this would continue. He would also assess a training course to test its relevance for rolling out a staff training programme.
Although this audit had received a 'satisfactory' rating, Members asked for reassurance that the new bus pass system was not being used fraudulently by tickets being issued with the wrong prices by mistake. It was reported that sampling had revealed that the difference between the charge to the Council and the actual cost was negligible. The Chief Finance Officer considered there was a very low risk of the Council being charged incorrectly.
Land and Property
This audit had received a 'limited' assurance rating. It was noted that the intention was to use the IDOX Uniform system to provide the electronic 'terrier' property database and document repository. Training would be given to staff in the Property Services team once the data had been added and verified.
It was noted that there were many parcels of land that had not been valued since the transfer of the Council's housing stock. These were mostly small areas such as grass verges that had no development value. However, Members believed that these areas could hold some value for the Council. It was noted that it would be a large task to register and value all of these landholdings. The task would be broken down into high and low priority areas. Officers were asked to take care when prioritising the registration and valuation of these areas as some smaller areas may be more valuable than larger ones.
Members raised a general point about staff training following the introduction of new software. It was considered imperative to train staff as new software was introduced as not to do so would be a waste of resources. The Audit Manager reported that this would be an element in the audit of Human Resources.
The audit review after six months would look at the effectiveness of the changes introduced.
Although this audit had received a 'satisfactory' assurance rating, Members queried why the service manager had not agreed to Internal Audit's recommendations to regularly monitor and review Internet and e-mail usage by staff. Members considered that this was important and should be monitored by software. However, it was suggested by officers that although usage was recorded and accurate records were available to prove any security breaches, it did not require continual monitored by service managers. The Chief Finance Officer reported that he would assess where action was needed.
National Non-Domestic Rating
This audit had received a 'limited' assurance rating. Members expressed concerns that the management responses did not deal with the recommendations. The service manager reported that he did not agree with many of the recommendations and was not concerned with the performance of the service. However, he agreed to meet with Internal Audit to discuss the issues and his management responses. The Committee's Vice-Chair asked to be kept informed of progress.
Refuse Collection and Street Cleansing
The Committee discussed the follow-up review of the actions taken since the audit of refuse collection and street cleansing. This audit had received a 'satisfactory' assurance rating. It was noted that discussions with the Highways Agency had been resolved and a schedule of litter picking for the more difficult areas along the A34 and A420 had been agreed and work restarted.
(a) that the content of report 38/08 be noted; and
(b) that the audit report on the White Horse Leisure and Tennis Centre be deferred until the next meeting of the Committee in September.