Follow Ups Progress Report
To inform members of the outcome of routine follow-ups following the previously agreed action plans for completed Audit Reports. The follow-ups detailed within this report are those carried out during the period March 2020 - November 2020.
Recommended - That the report be noted for informational purposes.
The Committee considered a report of Mark Beard, Head of Audit and Investigations, which informed Members of the outcome of routine follow-ups, following the previously agreed action plans for completed Audit Reports. Mr Beard provided a summary of the main findings of the report.
This report covered the period March 2020 - November 2020. The audit areas followed up and any key issues, were detailed within an Appendix to the main report and included the following areas:-
- Cloud Storage and Server Room Security;
- Risk Management;
- Christmas Decoration Budget;
- Markets; and
- Markets (controls).
Following the agreement of the recommendations between Management and Internal Audit upon the completion of the audit assignment, the area was revisited by Internal Audit and the recommendations were reviewed to ensure they had been implemented as agreed. The process was known as the ‘Follow-Up’.
Internal Audit assessed the current position against what had been agreed at the end of the audit. Where no action had been taken by the Service Area, then Internal Audit would question why and issue a revised Action Plan. Part of the control within the process was consideration by Audit Committee of any issues that arose. The Committee had the ability to ask questions of Management in the relative service areas as to why they had not acted upon the agreed Action Plan. The Committee could also express what its expectations would be with regard to such a problem occurring.
Internal Audit aimed to carry out a Follow-Up for each completed audit area within 6 months of completion. However there were a number of exceptions to that aim:-
i) Follow-Up in 6 months would be pointless if the recommendations were of a low enough priority to allow a longer timeframe.
ii) Work of the Audit Team did not allow the Follow-Up to be carried out. Although Follow-Ups were an important part of the process the Head of Audit and Investigations always had to weigh this against the need for achieving the Audit Plan and auditing the risks the Council faced.
iii) There were no recommendations arising from the original audit.
Councillor Michael Miller commented that the Markets had been struggling for a number of years and that audit work should perhaps have been carried out sooner. Mr Beard responded that the latter group of 8 recommendations had been in response to a specific set of circumstances which had not previously occurred. The total number of recommendations in respect of Markets (17) might appear to be excessive, but they covered numerous different aspects of the service. The Markets’ Management now had a robust set of processes in place.
Councillor Tim O’Kane suggested that the relevant Overview and Scrutiny Committee be invited to consider the decision of the Cabinet reported on 12th September 2019, to extend the Christmas Lighting contract to allow a new 4 years contract to be let by tender in January 2020. Councillor O’Kane was concerned that the smaller townships had differing needs, which might not be addressed effectively under a single contract and that smaller contractors might offer better value for money and be more responsive to local plans. Mr Beard responded that the decision by Cabinet had envisaged the delegation of the decision to award future lighting contracts to the Regeneration and Property Manager. The new contract had been through a full tender exercise and Lancashire County Council had been successful.
Councillor Kate Walsh enquired about the success of the Markets’ Management in monitoring opening hours of market stalls in line with the new three year leases. Mr Beard responded that the issue had arisen from the fact that market stalls sometimes remained closed while the Market Hall was open, which detracted from the overall customer experience. A more consistent pattern of opening could help to promote better footfall. The Audit work had helped to ensure that the rules about opening times were clear and fully understood by traders.
Resolved (1) That that Committee notes the content of the report summarising the outcome of routine follow-ups following the previously agreed action plans for completed Audit Reports.
(2) To refer to the relevant Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the arrangements for the use of a single contractor for the installation, maintenance and dismantling of Christmas lights decorations, cribs and trees within the Borough.