Agenda and draft minutes

General Purposes & Audit Committee - Wednesday, 2nd December, 2020 6.30 pm

Venue: This meeting will be held remotely. To view the meeting, please click here.

Contact: Michelle Ossei-Gerning
020 8726 6000 x84246  Email: michelle.gerning@croydon.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

41/20

Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 292 KB

To approve the minutes of the meetings held on Wednesday 7 October 2020 and Tuesday 20 October 2020 as an accurate record.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the meetings held on 7 and 20 October 2020 were agreed as a correct record.

Arising from the minutes of the meeting held on 7 October 2020, Councillor Millson questioned whether the Annual Governance Statement had been amended to take account of the comments raised by the General Purposes and Audit Committee (GPAC) prior to being signed off. It was advised that this would be checked and confirmation would follow. (Note: it has subsequently been confirmed that the Annual Governance Statement was amended to take account of comments made at the GPAC meeting).

Councillor Millson also requested that the minutes of GPAC be expanded to include more detail such as the names of the Councillors against the questions they asked or comments made. It was agreed that the Council’s approach to minutes needed further reflection to find a pragmatic solution, as near verbatim minutes were considerably more resource intensive to produce, especially when the recordings of the meeting were available. It was highlighted that recent Audit investigations had used Committee minutes, which were considered to be the legal record of the meeting, to inform the evidence gathering process, as such thought needed to be given to the legal requirements for minutes. One possible option may be to use a technological solution to provide a more complete record of meeting which could accompany summary minutes, but if this route was followed, there would be a need to ensure any such solution was retained in perpetuity.

42/20

Disclosure of Interests

In accordance with the Council’s Code of Conduct and the statutory provisions of the Localism Act, Members and co-opted Members of the Council are reminded that it is a requirement to register disclosable pecuniary interests (DPIs) and gifts and hospitality to the value of which exceeds £50 or multiple gifts and/or instances of hospitality with a cumulative value of £50 or more when received from a single donor within a rolling twelve month period. In addition, Members and co-opted Members are reminded that unless their disclosable pecuniary interest is registered on the register of interests or is the subject of a pending notification to the Monitoring Officer, they are required to disclose those disclosable pecuniary interests at the meeting. This should be done by completing the Disclosure of Interest form and handing it to the Democratic Services representative at the start of the meeting. The Chair will then invite Members to make their disclosure orally at the commencement of Agenda item 3. Completed disclosure forms will be provided to the Monitoring Officer for inclusion on the Register of Members’ Interests.

Minutes:

There were no disclosures of interest made at the meeting.

43/20

Urgent Business (if any)

To receive notice of any business not on the agenda which in the opinion of the Chair, by reason of special circumstances, be considered as a matter of urgency.

Minutes:

There were no items of urgent business.

44/20

Report in the Public Interest - Action Plan pdf icon PDF 294 KB

To consider the Council’s action plan made in the recent Report on the Public Interest.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the Report in the Public Interest which had been debated at an extraordinary meeting of the Council on 19 November 2020, along with an accompanying action plan that had been created to address the recommendations raised in the report. The action plan had been referred to the Committee for review, with any feedback due to be submitted to the Cabinet at its meeting on 18 January 2021.

Sarah Ironmonger from the Council’s external auditor, Grant Thornton, introduced the report by delivering a presentation which provided additional context including summarising the role of an audit committee, reviewing the terms of reference of GPAC,  explaining Integrated Assurance, summarising the duties of external auditors, as well as outlining the themes of the report in the public interest.

A copy of the presentation can be viewed on the Council website on the following link: https://democracy.croydon.gov.uk/documents/b7979/Item%205%20-%20Introductory%20Presentation%2002nd-Dec-2020%2018.30%20General%20Purposes%20Audit%20Committee.pdf?T=9

Arising from the presentation the Committee had a number of questions, the first of which from Councillor Millson asked for further clarity on the threshold for GPAC making recommendations to the Council. In response it was advised that it was a matter for Members to consider whether what they were being told was of sufficient importance that it needed to be escalated above the Audit Committee. For instance, when reviewing an internal audit report the Committee can provide challenge where recommendations have not been implemented, but should assess whether it is of sufficient concern to bring it to the attention of Council. Part of the role of an Audit Committee was to operate outside of politics interests, instead it should focus on what was right for the authority.

As an example, Councillor Millson suggested that should the Committee identify items that were being brought forward outside of existing budget controls, then consideration would need to be given to referring these to Council.

Councillor Tim Pollard highlighted that the Report in the Public Interest had been critical of transformation spending and had questioned whether it has resulted in any real transformation. Furthermore, when transformation projects were commissioned they should start out with objectives, but it seemed that when these outcomes had not been delivered there was no process in place for reviewing projects to establish the reasons for this. As such it was questioned whether, for the projects arising from the Croydon Renewal Plan, Councillor Stuart King should be regularly reporting back to Cabinet on the progress made on.

In response it was advised that for any complex project it was good practice to have tracking in place to help determine whether the intended outcomes had been delivered. Many transformation projects often take longer than 12 months to deliver their intended outcomes and needed to be viewed as an investment. In some cases, although the original outcomes had not been achieved, it was often the case that project evolved during the course of their lifespan and needed to be redirected toward new priorities. As part of a robust programme management process it would be good practice to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 44/20

45/20

Audit Plan pdf icon PDF 343 KB

[To Follow]

Minutes:

The Committee was presented with an update on the Audit Plan which had changed since it was first presented to the Committee in early March 2020. The changes reflected two new significant audit risks, the first of which was the impact of covid on the work of audit and had been added to the audit plan for each local authority that Grant Thornton worked as an auditor. The other risk identified was associated with the challenges in the revenue budget, with an additional focus required to demonstrate that it was being appropriately managed. This included a focus on the reporting of expenditure, the accounting on emergency accommodation and work to adjust the risks down on materiality in the budget.

It was confirmed that the audit performance report was unlikely to be presented to the GPAC meeting on 14 January, with it likely that a short update will be presented to confirm the findings to date.

Councillor Millson noted that the reference to further work on fraudulent transactions may raise concern, but it was confirmed that this related to additional audit work to gain reassurance that there had not been any fraudulent activity rather than any indication that the auditors were aware of such issues.

It was confirmed that the external auditors would be happy to attend a meeting of the Council to provide a report on the outcome of the audit plan, but the timing of this would need to be confirmed.

At the conclusion of this item the Chair thanked all attendees for their participation in the meeting.

46/20

Exclusion of Public and Press

The following motion is to be moved and seconded where it is proposed to exclude the press and public from the remainder of a meeting:

 

“That, under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act, 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information falling within those paragraphs indicated in Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, as amended.”

 

Minutes:

This motion was not required.