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Agenda item

Annual internal Audit Opinion 2021/22



To present a summary of the work undertaken by Internal Audit during 2021/22 and to give an overall opinion on levels of assurance resulting from this work.

Due to the information contained in The Internal Audit Annual Opinion, it is deemed unnecessary to submit a separate quarterly monitoring report. Instead, we have produced a condensed version of the usual report which contains a summary of the work concluded since the last meeting of this Committee.




That the Committee considers the report and comments, as necessary


Lucy Cater from SWAP Internal Audit Services introduced this item. In accordance with Public Sector Internal Audit Standards, the Head of Internal Audit is required to provide an annual opinion on the overall adequacy and effectiveness of the organisation's control arrangements. This is achieved through a risk-based programme of audits, agreed with management and approved, for 2021/22, by the Audit and General Purposes Committee (now Audit and Governance), which should provide a level of assurance across a range of Council activities. The opinion does not imply that the internal audit service has reviewed all risks and controls relating to the Council or the systems it reviews but rather an agreed sample that is reviewed on a rolling basis to ensure that all areas are covered as adequately as possible. 


Councillors discussed the need for a separate Audit Committee and the relationship between this committee and the Scrutiny Committees. It was noted that there had been discussions earlier in the year about the number of and size of committees and that this would be considered as part of any further  review of the Council’s Constitution.


Councillors asked who decided what should be audited and whether all the work of the Council was audited every year. It was explained that normally only parts of a service would be audited but that some might be reviewed more often than others. Auditing involves sample checking. Areas of concern might be audited more often. External auditing is a different process.


There were questions around the significance of the different priorities and timescales. It was explained that there may be good reasons why some actions had not yet been taken forward and confirmed that the pandemic, and subsequent worldwide events had had significant impact on the work.  Councillors agreed that training explaining the auditing process would be helpful and asked that slides be circulated separately by email.


There followed a discussion on the issues around recruitment and retention. Audit work on this had been deferred but the Committee felt that this was an area of considerable concern. It was noted that there were a number of elements contributing to retention and recruitment. The Chief Finance Officer gave some examples of recent recruitment exercises which demonstrated that it is very much an employees market. Many people want to work nearer to home or spend more time working from home although the agile working strategy recently adopted does accommodate that. Retention problems were particularly acute in the Planning Department but were being experienced across the whole Council. It is important to develop a culture which encourages retention of staff. This should also include staff wellbeing.


The Committee decided that it should flag this up as an area of concern. Internal Audit will include these areas within the HR audit for 2022/23 and once completed will present the report to a future Audit and Governance Meeting. A decision might then be made about referring the matter to Cabinet. 


It was noted that work was ongoing on Emergency planning. There was no guidance on the use of the Emergency Response WhatsApp groups. Officers said that they would be following up outstanding actions and would report  progress at the next meeting. 


The Chief Finance Officer said that she had some concerns about processes. She emphasised the importance of ensuring that the agreed actions arising from audits are the right ones and are agreed and adopted by the service areas.  She also emphasised that information is only as complete to the extent that it is provided by Service Managers. It was important to know if there were gaps.


The Committee agreed to identify three key issues:


  • The recruitment and retention of staff and their wellbeing.
  • The need to progress on Emergency planning
  • Processes for reporting



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