Agenda and minutes

`, Audit & Governance Committee
Monday, 25th January, 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: Virtual Meeting on Zoom. View directions

Contact: Laura Kirman  Tel: 01992 564243 Email:


No. Item


Webcasting Introduction

This virtual meeting is to be webcast. Members are reminded of the need to unmute before speaking. The Chairman will read the following announcement:


“I would like to remind everyone present that this virtual meeting will be broadcast live to the internet (or filmed) and will be capable of repeated viewing (or another use by such third parties).


Please could I also remind Members of the Public who have registered to speak that they will be admitted to the meeting at the appropriate time.


Please also be aware that if technical difficulties interrupt the meeting that cannot be overcome, I may need to adjourn the meeting.”



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The Chairman made a short address to remind everyone present that the meeting would be broadcast live to the internet, and would be capable of repeated viewing, which could infringe their human and data protection rights.




Declarations of Interest

To declare interests in any item on the agenda for the meeting of the Committee.


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There were no declarations of interest made pursuant to the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct.




Minutes pdf icon PDF 128 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 9 December 2020.


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That the minutes of the meeting held on 9 December 2020 be taken as read and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.




Matters Arising

To consider any matters arising from the minutes of the previous meeting of the Committee.

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There were no matters arising from the minutes of the previous meeting which warranted further discussion.




Audit & Governance Committee - Work Programme pdf icon PDF 24 KB

To consider the attached work programme for the Committee for 2020/21.


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The Committee noted its Work Programme for 2020/21.




Internal Audit Monitoring Report pdf icon PDF 348 KB

(Chief Internal Auditor) To consider the attached report.

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The Chief Internal Auditor, S Marsh, presented the Internal Audit Monitoring Report.  The Committee was advised that two audit reports had been issued. The Fixed Assets audit had received moderate assurance; a fixed asset register and controls were in place, however, there was a lack of process and procedures for end of year reconciliation. The Interim Chief Finance Officer had addressed the structure of the accountancy function and relevant processes would be introduced. The Customer Services audit had received substantial assurance. Good progress had been made around the transformation of the service, there had been a reduction from 50 to 30 complaints over the period for quarter 1 of 2020/21 and increased resolution at the first point of contact. There had been a variety of awareness raising initiatives and positive work.

The number of recommendations in the recommendation tracker remained low. Two recommendations related to Health and Safety and the Strategic Safety Group was ensuring good progress was being made. Mandatory training had been rolled out to all officers and risk assessment work was continuing. The third recommendation was linked to the Harlow Gilston Garden Town sharing agreement which would be completed by the legal team.

Internal Audit continued to be involved in the administration of grants  and conducted  spotlight checks to ensure companies were legitimate and still trading. This was supported by the Corporate Fraud team, who conduct investigations were suspected fraud had arisen.

There following polices had been reviewed:

(i)            The Local Code of Governance was reviewed and amended to cover COVID, remote working and robust processes for emergency decisions. The code would support the Annual Governance Statement.


(ii)           The Anti-Fraud and Corruption Strategy was reviewed and the appendices had been incorporated for ease of access. The three pillars of activity for this strategy ‘acknowledge’, ‘prevent’ and ‘pursue’ had been extended to include ‘govern’ and ‘protect’, in line with the UK Fraud and Corruption Strategy.  Officers had been made aware of the fraud response plan and the Anti-Money Laundering Policy had limited the level of cash transactions.


(iii)          The Whistleblowing Policy had been updated with key contact details and revised timescales for reporting back on concerns raised. Recently the policy had been used anonymously and the resulting investigation showed nothing was untoward.


(iv)          The Internal Audit Charter detailed the role and remit of internal audit and was in line with the requirement of the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards.


(v)           The skills and knowledge analysis had shown a good spread of across the Committee and this would support the development of future training.


Cllr Heap sought confirmation that fixed asset reconciliation would happen, requested clarity on the checks made in relation to COVID businesses grants and questioned if there was oversight of delegated decision making. The Chief Internal Auditor detailed that assurance had been given in relation to the reconciliation, this was on the tracker and would be monitored.

The Corporate Fraud Manager confirmed that checks carried out on businesses included: verification at Companies House; social media presence;  ...  view the full minutes text for item 57.


Risk Management pdf icon PDF 227 KB

(Section 151 Officer) To consider the attached report.

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The Section 151 Officer, A. Small, highlighted that there had been minimal change to the risk rating in the risk management report. The risk status had been updated and there had been no new significant risks. The previously identified risks continued to be managed.

Mr Jarvis suggested that there was a significant risk around the closure of the accounts and detailed his concerns that this could impact on budgetary and internal controls. The Section 151 Officer provided assurance that the underling process had improved and there had been changes in the accountancy team. The accounts were published in line with the statutory deadline, although there were some outstanding issues with the audit. There would be a forward planning meeting and an accounts closing time frame would be put in place to meet the deadlines.

Mr Jarvis requested an update on the Treasury Management report.  A Small explained that this not been a standard year and the Council’s response to COVID and the prioritisation of the budget setting process meant the treasury management report had been delayed. Cllr Philips affirmed that he had asked the finance department to prioritise the budget setting process, but acknowledged that the closure of the account was important.

Cllr Heap suggested that the closure of accounts would get more complex with Quails. A Small agreed that consolidation of the Quails accounts would be a new issue,  however there would be a robust accounts closing process and staff were skilled and experienced in consolidation. In most years there were changes to the financial codes of practice that impacted on the processes and he was to confident that the accounts would be closed in time.




(1)  The changes to the risk register were noted and endorsed.


Statement of Accounts 2019/20 Audit

(Deloitte) Statement of Accounts 2019/20 Audit (verbal report)


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The Section 151 Officer, A. Small, advised that a final set of audited accounts for 2019/20 had not been produced. The accounts were published and met the statutory timetable, but due to COVID, the external auditors, Deloitte, could not meet the timetable. The audit queries that the Council had to work through had been deprioritised due, in part, to the budget process work. There was one query that needed to be resolved. C Wisdom, External Auditor, confirmed the position and A Small advised that the report would be at the next Committee meeting.





(1)  That the update on the statement of accounts 2019/20 was noted.


Any Other Business

Section 100B(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972 requires that the permission of the Chairman be obtained, after prior notice to the Chief Executive, before urgent business not specified in the agenda (including a supplementary agenda of which the statutory period of notice has been given) may be transacted.

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No other business was raised for consideration by the Committee.




Exclusion of Public and Press


To consider whether, under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public and press should be excluded from the meeting for the items of business set out below on grounds that they will involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in the following paragraph(s) of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act (as amended) or are confidential under Section 100(A)(2):


Agenda Item No


Exempt Information Paragraph Number





The Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006, which came into effect on 1 March 2006, requires the Council to consider whether maintaining the exemption listed above outweighs the potential public interest in disclosing the information. Any member who considers that this test should be applied to any currently exempted matter on this agenda should contact the proper officer at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.


Background Papers: 

Article 17 of the Constitution (Access to Information) define background papers as being documents relating to the subject matter of the report which in the Proper Officer's opinion:


(a)        disclose any facts or matters on which the report or an important part of the report is based;  and


(b)        have been relied on to a material extent in preparing the report and does not include published works or those which disclose exempt or confidential information and in respect of executive reports, the advice of any political advisor.


The Council will make available for public inspection one copy of each of the documents on the list of background papers for four years after the date of the meeting. Inspection of background papers can be arranged by contacting either the Responsible Officer or the Democratic Services Officer for the particular item.

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The Committee noted that there was no business which necessitated the exclusion of the public and press from the meeting