To consider the attached report.
Contact Officer: Kate Mulhearn (01296) 585724
The Committee received a progress report on assurance work activity undertaken against the 2017/18 Assurance Plan that had been approved by the Audit Committee in July 2017.
The following matters were highlighted:-
Final Reports issued since the previous Committee Meeting
The Council Tax and Business Rates review had been completed and contained 1 high risk and 4 low risk recommendations. Overall, the report had been classified as Medium Risk with key findings summarised as follows:-
· Council tax reconciliations between the Northgate revenue system and the Tech One finance system had not been performed since May 2017 and business rates reconciliations had not been performed since July 2017. There was also no regular reconciliation performed between the debt recovery system (Ash) and Tech One. (High)
· There was an estimated £1.5m in irrecoverable council tax debt which was fully provided, but had not been written off, despite previous audit recommendations to review and action. (Low)
· No monthly collection monitoring reports were produced and circulated to senior management between April and October 2017. Reports were now being produced but further work was required to embed the reporting and review processes. (Low)
· the sample had identified one council tax account where a customer had been placed on a closed period council tax reduction scheme in error, when she should have been on an open ended one, resulting in incorrect billing. There were no checks in the Northgate system to prevent other similar errors occurring. (Low)
· The Council was not monitoring temporarily banded properties and properties yet to be valued so that they could inform the VOA when the expected 90 day period expired. (Low)
The audit had recognised that the restructure over the past year had left the teams with many new staff inexperienced in the Northgate and Finance systems. However, there were fundamental processes and procedures that were not currently being adhered which the Council needed to address.
2017/18 Internal Audit Plan work in progress
Members were informed that reviews of Building Control and Taxi Licensing were being scoped with a view to audit commencing in February 2018. The field work for the Housing Benefits review had been completed and the report was being prepared.
Implementation of agreed audit actions
Internal Audit monitored the implementation of actions and recommendations raised by reviews to ensure that the control weaknesses identified had been satisfactorily addressed. Actions arising from low risk audit findings were followed up by management and reviewed, but not validated by internal audit.
The overall progress and detail of those actions which were considered to be due were set out in Appendix 3 to the report. At the end of December 2017, a total of 116 discrete audit actions had been identified from reviews occurring during 2015, 2016 and 2017, of which 42 have been completed to date. Of the 74 remaining audit actions, 18 have arisen from “High” risk audit issues, 22 from “Medium” and 34 related to “Low” risk audit findings. A summary of all of these actions was included at Appendix 4 to the Committee report.
The Finance Steering Group will maintain ongoing review of completion of actions but only the status and progress against audit actions which have passed their due date will be reported in detail to Audit Committee.
Internal Audit Plan and progress tracker
Progress and changes against the approved 2017/18 Annual Internal Audit Plan were detailed at Appendix 2 to the Committee report.
Members sought further information and were informed:-
· Council Tax and Business Rates – informed that the main reason for monthly collection monitoring reports not being produced and circulated to senior management between April and October 2017 had been due to staffing re-structures taking place at the time. An assurance was given that processes and procedures were being put in place so that this would not occur in the future.
· Implementation of Agreed Audit Actions – it was agreed that a detailed listing of all internal audit actions (in progress and complete) together with a status update should be reported six monthly to the Committee, with a summary of the discrete (High / Medium / Low risk) audit actions reported to each meeting.
· In Progress Actions for Accounts Receivable – an explanation was provided that the draft Debt Policy (covering debt management and recovery, and write off), had been circulated for review and would be hopefully be agreed soon. Once the policy was approved then a significant amount of work would need to be done across the organisation to document all work streams and embed the procedures. This had resulted in new completion dates being agreed for the work, taking account of when it could realistically be completed.
Action point: Council Tax and Business Rates – an undertaking was given to provide Members with information on the rules regarding Council Tax and business rates payable when retrospective planning permission was granted.
That the progress report and action points made at the meeting be noted.