To consider the Annual Audit Letter for 2014/15.
Consideration was given to the Annual Audit Letter which summarised the External Auditor’s findings from the 2014/15 audit. The letter was intended to communicate key messages to the Council and external stakeholders including members of the public. Jon Roberts, of Grant Thornton, reported that an unqualified opinion on the accounts had been issued confirming that the financial statements gave a true and fair picture of the Council’s financial position and of the income and expenditure recorded by the Council. The certificate of completion of the audit had been issued on 21 October.
The Value for Money Conclusion was also unqualified. The Council therefore, in the opinion of the Auditor, having proper arrangements in place to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness. The External Auditors were asked for their view on the award of contract process in the case of Core Fit. Clarification was also requested concerning an upfront payment of £30,000 agreed in respect of that contract which had not been listed on the Council’s website.
The Auditor advised that amounts in relation to the specific contract were not significant enough to have an impact on the 2014/15 accounts. With regard to the upfront payment the External Auditors had worked with Internal Audit and would be expecting this to be properly reported. Payment of £2,000 had been made to Grant Thornton to look at specific matters raised by the Council, and details were requested of the work that had entailed.
The Chief Executive addressed the meeting and reported that he had commissioned Internal Audit to carry out a review of procurement arrangements. A report would be prepared for consideration at the next meeting of the Committee along with the comments of the External Auditor. Key issues had been discussed with Internal Audit during the course of its work and to date there was no evidence of wrongdoing that an outside agency would have an interest in investigating. An informed decision would be made as to whether any action was required and if Contract Procedure Rules had been breached then an investigation in accordance with the appropriate policy would be commissioned. The External Auditor had confirmed he was comfortable with this approach and was maintaining a watching brief.
A discussion ensued in respect of the use of waivers which are a facility to exempt contracts from normal competition in certain circumstances as part of the Council’s Contract Procedure Rules.
At this stage, and for reasons of openness, the Monitoring Officer declared she is involved in the signing some waiver forms; Members needed to bear in mind the work coming forward would put this in perspective with the normal procedure process. She was responding in her capacity as the Monitoring Officer and this was in respect of her involvement with WARNS as a general principle.
The Committee was supportive of the approach that had been outlined by the Chief Executive but also expressed concern at the reputation of the Council being undermined. The Chief Executive assured Members he would want to make sure the reputation of the Council was maintained and also that, as part of the review, he had asked for other WARNs that had been issued to be compared and contrasted so everybody could learn from them.
That the report, and discussions, be noted.