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Agenda item


To provide the Audit Committee with a summary of the work completed by Risk Services in quarter one of the 2021/2022 financial year.


Mrs Tracy Greenhalgh, Head of Audit and Risk presented a report summarising the work of Risk Services, including the overall assurance statements for all audit reviews completed in quarter one. Mrs Greenhalgh highlighted that progress on delivering the 2021/2022 audit plan had been less than expected due to the team currently carrying two vacancies, she reported that recruitment campaigns were underway. The Committee was informed that the impact on the internal audit plan would remain under continual review and contingency arrangements would be explored to ensure that an adequate level of assurance work was undertaken to enable an Annual Audit Opinion to be provided at the close of 2021/2022.


Mrs Greenhalgh updated the Committee in relation to the Council’s Corporate Fraud work, reporting that the Senior Counter Fraud Adviser continued to support the Head of Revenues and Exchequer Services and the Head of Economic and Cultural Services in the administration of various grants available to local businesses who had been impacted by the pandemic and which qualified for the various schemes in place. During the quarter, the requirement to undertake pre-assurance checks on all applicants for a Restart Grant had made a significant impact on team resources and therefore progress in relation to the delivery of the proactive fraud plan and the National Fraud Initiative exercise had been impacted. Mrs Greenhalgh advised that with the relaxation of lockdown restrictions and the reduction of associated grants it was hoped that the Corporate Fraud Team would be able to move towards business as usual and address the current backlog of active cases and proactive fraud prevention work. She noted that one of the Corporate Fraud Officers would be leaving the team and therefore a recruitment exercise would need to be undertaken to fill this role, potentially impacting on available resources until a suitable replacement had been secured.


The Committee was informed that with regard to Assurance Statements, the vast majority of areas reviewed had received adequate or good assurance, with the exception of ‘Purchase Card Financial Control Assurance Testing,’ which had received a split assurance. Mrs Greenhalgh advised that although the controls in place for issuing and distributing new purchase cards, amending card restrictions, reporting management information and managing the cards of leavers had been identified as adequate, compliance testing had identified that whilst guidance and procedures were in place, a significant number of purchase cardholders and authorisers had not been consistently adhering to the purchase card terms and conditions. The level of controls in place for this process had therefore been assessed as inadequate, resulting in 11 recommendations, one of which being Priority One. The Committee sought a progress update on the Priority One recommendation, which was that the Section 151 Officer would contact all purchase cardholders and authorisers reaffirming that they should follow procedures and that non-compliance would result in purchase cards being removed. Mr Steve Thompson, Director of Resources and Chief Finance Officer confirmed that the letter had been drafted and would be circulated to all card holders imminently, further advising the Committee that a follow-up exercise would be undertaken during the following quarter to individually contact any non-compliant officers.


On reviewing the reported number of trained emergency response volunteers, the Committee questioned whether greater efforts should be made to recruit volunteers. Mrs Greenhalgh reported that the Council had an agreement in place with Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwin whereby volunteers could be utilised if necessary and advised that the figure included within the report referred specifically to Blackpool volunteers.


Resolved: To note the Risk Services quarter one report.


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