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Agenda and minutes

With effect from 1 April 2016 Agenda and Minutes will be available in both Welsh and English. Reports are working documents and produced in English only in accordance with Welsh Language Standard 41 of this Council’s Final Compliance Notice from the Welsh Language Commissioner.

Venue: Meeting Room 1, Guildhall

Contact: Ken Bickerton  Committee Officer

Items
No. Item

11.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillors Dana Davies, Frank Hemmings, Ronnie Prince, Rondo Roberts and Rodney Skelland.

12.

Declarations of personal interests, if any

Members are reminded of their responsibility, under Paragraph 11 of the Members’ Code of Conduct, to declare the existence and nature of any personal interest in respect of any of the business to be transacted at this meeting.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of personal interest.

13.

Confirmation of Minutes pdf icon PDF 81 KB

To sign as a correct record the Minutes of the Meeting held on 31 May 2018.

Minutes:

The Minutes of the meeting held on 31 May 2018 were submitted.

 

RESOLVED – That the Minutes of the meeting held on 31 May 2018 be signed as a correct record.

 

Matter Arising:

 

Audit Ref: 2017 – 003 Information Management – including Data Security: The Audit Lead reported that improvements continued to be made, however, a minority of Managers still fail to notify the Council’s ICT section of staff leavers and this matter has been brought to the attention of the relevant Heads of Department.  The findings of the audit would be included in the Interim Audit Report to be submitted to the September 2018 meeting of the Audit Committee.

14.

Work Programme pdf icon PDF 46 KB

To consider the report of the Head of Finance.

Minutes:

The Head of Finance submitted an updated Work Programme.

 

RESOLVED – That the Work Programme be noted.

15.

Statement of Accounts 2017/18 pdf icon PDF 37 KB

To consider the report of the Head of Finance.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Finance submitted a report (HF/78/18) to approve the Authority’s Statement of Accounts for the financial year 2017/18.  A copy of the Statement of Accounts was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.

 

The Service Manager - Accountancy introduced the report and reminded Members that the Audit Committee had considered the Statement of Accounts for the 2017/18 financial year at its meeting held on 31 May 2018.  As a consequence of misstatements identified during the audit, amendments have been made in the notes to the accounts which have been agreed by the auditor.   A summary of the key corrections made are noted in Exhibit 1 of Appendix 3.   As requested at the May meeting, a copy of Wrexham Commercial Services Ltd accounts for the 2017/18 financial year had been attached at Appendix 4.  The Service Manager then highlighted and explained the adjustments and amendments made to the accounts, as agreed by the External Auditor.  

 

During consideration of the Statement of Accounts Members commented upon and sought further clarification on the following matters in particular:

 

·         Note to Accounts No. 35 - Social Care Safe Custody and Amenity Funds: The Service Manager – Accountancy provided further information on the controls in place on the day-to-day management of individual Safe Custody Accounts for service users living in the community, who are unable to deal with their financial affairs due to their mental incapacity.

·         Note to Accounts No. 36 – Creditors.  The Service Manager – Accountancy provided further information and a breakdown of the figures for Long and Short term creditors.  Goods and services received before 31 March 2018 that had not been invoiced or recorded onto the accounts payable system accounted for £8.4m of the £12m total.  The remainder being holiday pay accrual (£1.3m), Credit on Council Tax (£900k) and Housing Revenue Account (£600k).

·         With reference to the WAO ‘Audit of Financial Statements Report’ assurances were sought that action had been taken to overcome the problems associated with the integrity of the general ledger and accounts payable system as experienced during August / September 2017.

 

Matthew Edwards, Financial Audit Manager, Wales Audit Office (WAO), reported that the WAO’s key issues were summarised in the ‘Audit of Financial Statements Report’ submitted at Appendix 3 and it was the Audit General’s intention to issue an unqualified audit report on the financial statements.  He thanked the Head of Finance and his team for preparing the draft financial statement to a high standard and for their assistance in enabling a smooth process and completion of the audit. 

 

The Chair, on behalf of the Audit Committee, also thanked the Head of Finance and his team and the Welsh Audit Office for completing their respective roles in a timely manner and enabling the Council to bring forward the timetable for preparing and publishing the accounts.

 

RESOLVED –

 

(i)         That the Statement of Accounts for the 2017/18 financial year attached at Appendix 1 to report HF/78/18, be approved.

(ii)        That the contents of the management representations  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.

16.

Audit Committee Annual Report 2017/18 pdf icon PDF 544 KB

To consider the report of the Head of Finance.

Minutes:

The Head of Finance submitted a report (HF/79/18) to enable consideration to be given to the Chair of the Audit Committee’s Annual Report 2017/18.   A copy of the Annual Report to be submitted to Council in September 2018 was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.

 

The Chair of the Audit Committee presented the report and gave an overview of the work undertaken by the Committee during the 2017/18 Municipal Year.  He commented that the Committee continued to add value and provide assurance as to the effectiveness of the Council’s controls environment.  In particular, by calling Heads of Services to attend the Audit Committee when necessary to answer questions on matters which fall under its Terms of Reference assisted towards improving governance arrangements at a departmental level.  Therefore, he recommended that Members approve the Annual Report for submission to Council.

 

RESOLVED – To recommend to Council that the Audit Committee Annual Report 2017/18, as attached at appendix 1 to report HF/79/18, be approved.

17.

Audit Committee Development Programme 2018/19 pdf icon PDF 402 KB

To consider the report of the Head of Finance.

Minutes:

The Head of Finance submitted a report (HF/80/18) to enable consideration to be given to the draft Audit Committee Development Programme 2018/19, a copy of which was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.  

 

The Service Manager - Audit and Technical introduced the report and commented that the draft Development Programme had been developed using the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) Practical Guidance and the results of the Council’s Audit Committee Effectiveness Survey 2018.   He reminded Members that the Training Programme was a flexible document and could be changed at short notice. An updated Audit Committee Terms of Reference derived from CIPFA’s Audit Committee guidance had been attached at Appendix 2.  

 

During consideration of the report it was agreed that the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Audit Committee discuss with officers potential topics for the training sessions prior to the September meeting of the Audit Committee.

 

RESOLVED

 

(i)         That the draft Audit Committee Development Programme as attached to report HF/80/18 be approved.

(ii)        To recommend to Council that the updated Audit Committee Terms of Reference be approved.

18.

Internal Audit - Counter Fraud Annual Report 2017/18 pdf icon PDF 103 KB

To consider the report of the Head of Finance.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Finance submitted a report (HF/76/18) to enable consideration to be given to the Counter Fraud Report 2017/18.

 

The Audit Lead introduced the report and gave an overview of the counter fraud arrangements in place to mitigate the risk of fraud within the Council.  The report included information on national trends, assessed the effectiveness of the Council’s counter fraud arrangements and provided further information on those frauds which were summarised in the Internal Audit reports received by the Audit Committee on a regular basis during 2017/18.  There was a significant inherent risk of fraud for all local authorities, but there was little evidence that fraud was currently a major problem in Wrexham, however, it was essential that the risk was regularly re-assessed.  The Council had a zero tolerance approach to fraudulent activity and maintained an effective counter fraud culture which incorporated procedures which were in line with good practise, resilient and were currently considered to be proportionate to the risk.

 

During consideration of the report Members raised the following points in particular:

 

·         Procurement fraud had been identified as the greatest fraud risk area and accounted for 56% of estimated Local Government fraud.  Members sought an assurance that adequate counter fraud arrangements were in place to mitigate the risk within the Council.

·         The Service Manager - Audit and Technical referred to the established counter fraud policy and procedures arrangements.  The Council constantly reviewed national developments to maintain an up to date awareness of the type of fraud it may be exposed to and was linked to the National Anti-Fraud Network.  In addition, articles and bulletins were placed in staff newsletters on a regular basis to raise staff awareness of potential fraudulent activity.

·         Further information was requested on the two proven cases of fraud identified by the Council during 2017/18.

·         Members commented upon the good work being undertaken by Council staff in identifying cases of benefit fraud, however, expressed concern on the lack of feedback on those cases referred by the Council to the Department for Work and Pensions Fraud and Error Service (FES). 

·         In response, the Head of Finance commented that in accordance with the national Service Level Agreement all benefit fraud cases were referred to FES for them to administer appropriate sanctions.  There has been an improvement in the level of feedback obtained and the Council now receive quarterly returns from FES outlining their performance.  These returns showed that of the 102 cases referred to FES during 2017/18, five had resulted in prosecutions and two administrative penalties had been issued.

·         The Head of Finance commented that there was a need to continue to review the effectiveness of the SLA agreement with DWP.  He agreed to contact the FES Manger to discuss possible measures that could be undertaken to improve the quality of feedback received.   In addition, future Counter Fraud reports submitted to the Audit Committee would contain a paragraph on the progress of  benefit fraud cases referred to FES.

·         With reference to the Counter Fraud Risk Scoring Matrix  ...  view the full minutes text for item 18.

19.

Counter Fraud Strategy 2018/21 pdf icon PDF 120 KB

To consider the report of the Head of Finance.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Finance submitted a report (HF/77/18) which enabled consideration to be given to the Counter Fraud Strategy for 2018/19.  A copy of the proposed Counter Fraud Strategy 2018 – 21 was attached at Appendix 1 and the Counter Fraud Policy and Procedures was attached at Appendix 2. 

 

The Audit Lead introduced the report and that these documents will replace the current Counter Fraud Strategy agreed by the Executive Board on 15 September 2015.  He highlighted the main points contained therein and that it was proposed to submit both documents to the Executive Board for approval, subject to the results of any consultation with Heads of Department.

 

During the discussion that ensued, Members raised the following points in particular:

 

·         Reference was made to the time taken to complete the investigation of some fraud cases, particularly if criminal proceedings were also being undertaken. 

·         Assurance was sought that where fraudulent activity had been identified, the Council takes robust action to seek sanctions, recovery and redress against the individuals concerned.  The Service Manager - Audit and Technical confirmed that the Council had a zero tolerance towards fraud and action was taken in accordance with the Council’s Counter Fraud Policy and Procedures.

·         It was agreed that Members of the Audit Committee be informed of any amendments to the wording of the document that may be required following the expiry of the consultation period with Heads of Department.

 

RESOLVED – To recommend to the Executive Board that the Counter Fraud Strategy 2018-21 as attached to report HF/77/18, subject to any amendments required following the end of the consultation period with Heads of Department, be approved.

20.

Wales Audit Office National Reports pdf icon PDF 292 KB

To consider the report of the Head of Finance.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Head of Finance submitted a report (HF/81/18) which provided the Audit Committee with an update on the national performance reports published by the Wales Audit Office since January 2018.  The report also included information on how their findings had been considered by the Council and incorporated into local action plans.

 

RESOLVED – That the national performance reports published by the Wales Audit Office and responses made by the Council as set out in report HF/81/18 be noted.