To consider a report from the South West Audit Partnership.
The committee considered the report from the South West Audit Partnership (SWAP) on internal audit activity and audit planning for 2020/21.
Members were advised that due to the current environment SWAP were taking a more flexible and responsive approach to audit planning. They were working to provide a live audit planning document which members and officers would be able to access, which provided an up to date position on all audits including those that had been deferred or removed. The Chairman felt there was a need to have more explanation around the risks involved in the removal of some audits and requested that the Service Manager for Assurance liaises with officers around the removal of audits to provide additional assessments along with any mitigating actions or assurances.
The Principal Auditor highlighted to members a newly identified significant corporate risk around key issues that led to a largely unpredicted significant overspend in the school transport budgets for 2019-20. There was confidence that the recommendations would be taken forward and follow up work would be reported back to this committee by SWAP.
One member asked what was being done regarding the incorrect information on the Trapeze and Synergy systems. The Corporate Director Education and Learning advised that the Trapeze system operated within the Place Directorate and Synergy was the Children’s part of the piece. Officers worked closely with colleagues in the Place Directorate and there was a significant amount of work ongoing around the whole SEN transport issue.
With regard to the progress of mitigating a previously identified significant risk around the use of Pupil Premium Plus Grant at the Virtual School, follow up audit work had now been concluded and a significant amount of work had been undertaken by the Virtual School, however SWAP were not yet in a position to confirm that this corporate risk had been effectively mitigated. The follow up report had been very positively received by the new Virtual School Head and SWAP were aiming to work with them to improve the situation further.
SWAP advised that follow up work on the financial reconciliations procedures indicated less progress than might have been hoped but there were mitigating circumstances around this namely; the need to move to a single bank account and the closely linked need to move from the legacy district financial systems to the Council’s SAP system.
Following a question from the Chairman regarding a single bank account for the Council, the Corporate Director Financial and Commercial advised that work was being done to complete this but it was a complex process. There had been a sustained improvement in the bank reconciliation process but there was still a need for further improvement. The Service Manager for Treasury and Investment advised members that the biggest challenge with moving to one bank account was the revenues and benefits service as there were 5 different sets of banking arrangements for each of the predecessor councils. The bank accounts were now ready and waiting to move across but there was a need to ensure that this was done correctly. There was an expectation that the move across to Nat West would take place in this calendar year but there was a risk this could slip into the last financial quarter. The Chairman asked officers to bring a report to the November meeting explaining the risks and issues around moving to a single bank account.
That a report be included on the agenda for the November meeting regarding the issues around the Council moving to a single bank account.