Audit & Counter Fraud Update - Q2 2018-19
Members were provided with an update on the work, outputs and performance of the Audit & Counter Fraud Team for the period 1 August 2018 to 30 September 2018.
The Audit & Counter Fraud Shared Service Team Leader stated that the update at Appendix 2 is the second of three updates to be produced during 2018-19; detailing the work undertaken by the Audit & Counter Fraud Team between 1 August and 30 September 2018 and the progress made against the annual work plan.
The Audit & Counter Fraud Shared Service Team Leader highlighted a number of key points to the Committee:
- Paragraph 3.4 of the update, on page 16, explains that due to staff sickness, an unexpected vacancy created by a promotion within the team and one Audit & Counter Fraud Officer taking flexible retirement from 01 September 2018, the level of resources available has been affected.
- As of 30 September, the net loss from the original resource budget of 660 days for Gravesham, resulting from these issues is approximately 56 days. Overall the team is forecasting a loss of 155 days; the 56 days is Gravesham’s proportion of that based on the agreed split of resources and work that has already been completed.
- Despite the resourcing issues the work plan for 2018-19 is progressing well and the table in section 4, which starts on page 18, provides an update on all work completed during the period. During this period four audits were finalised.
- An update against the team’s key performance indicators is given in the table at section 5, which starts on page 25.
- The outturns provided are as at 30 September; however as of today (for the year to date):
- A&CF10 Proportion of productive time spent on assurance and consultancy work is 62%
- A&CF11 Proportion of productive time spent of counter fraud work is 38%
- A&CF12a Proportion of agreed assurance assignments delivered is 32%
- A&CF12b Proportion of agreed assurance assignments underway is 24%
- Section 6, on page 27 of the update, sets out a request to defer the audits of Tenancy Enforcement and Repairs & Maintenance to the 2019-20 plan due to changes in the Services. This will allow for more effective reviews to take place next year.
- There are no further expectations to request changes to the plan at this time; the resource situation is being continually monitored to see if we can recover lost time through other means. Revisions of the plan may become necessary in the future, in which case Members will be provided with a full explanation and approval sought.
- Section 7, which starts on page 28, provides an update on all Audit & Counter Fraud recommendations; including a table on page 34, which lists agreed recommendations that are outstanding more than 6 months past the scheduled implementation date. All of the recommendations in this table were reported to the Committee in September; the Director (Housing & Regeneration) gave assurance at the previous Committee meeting that these recommendations will be implemented by December 2018. Further updates will be provided at the February committee meeting once the revised implementation dates set by the client have passed.
Concern was voiced by a Member over the ‘Manual Handling’ audit listed on page 21 as it was a health and safety concern rather than an audit issue.
The two Audit & Counter Fraud Shared Service Team Leaders explained that it is an audit concern from the point of view of staff wellbeing and insurance implications. They assured Members that the safety of the workforce is the first priority and the audit will seek assurance that the right policies are in place that they are being followed and training is given to keep staff safe. The audit will also seek assurances that effective support is available to any staff that may be injured at the workplace. Once the review is completed, the findings will be fed back to Members.
The two Audit & Counter Fraud Shared Service Team Leaders fielded questions from the Committee and explained the following:
- Page 26 – The proportion of available resources spent on productive work (85%) is calculated based on the amount of time spent on core audit assurance, consultancy and counter-fraud work; the 15% non-productive time is calculated based on time associated with things such as IT issues, admin work, 1-1s / appraisals and time spent at team meetings etc. One particular issue during this period was the upgrade to Office 365 which meant there was some IT down time affecting the productive time overall. As of today, the percentage of time spent on productive work has increased to 88%. In terms of contingency in place, all work is now saved electronically, with paper copies securely destroyed. All Officers now have a Surface Pro and in the unlikely event of a power cut or IT problems the Surface Pros can remotely access the Gravesham and Medway networks securely from any Wi-Fi network, at any location.
The Committee was still concerned with the ongoing issue on page 29 on Planning Enforcement which still hasn’t been dealt with after four and half years. Members impressed the need for it to be rectified so that arrangements could be improved to monitor planning conditions on applications and checks on developers.
The Assistant Director (Corporate Services) advised that she would pass the comments back to the Assistant Director (Planning) and the Director (Housing & Regeneration). In terms of monitoring, it was agreed at the Committee that senior officers would attend an F&A Committee if a recommendation for their department was outstanding for longer than six months. That agreement has been accepted at Management Team. The Assistant Director (Corporate Services) added that on this basis, if the recommendation has not been rectified in December, then either one of the aforementioned Directors can attend the February meeting of F&A Committee to explain the reason why it hasn’t been implemented.
The Committee made a formal request that the Assistant Director (Planning) and/or the Director (Housing & Regeneration) attend the Finance & Audit Committee on Monday, 18 February 2019 if the planning enforcement issue has not been dealt with.
Clarification was sought by a Member on what powers the F&A Committee had to enforce that or whether it had to go through Council or Cabinet.
The Assistant Director (Corporate Services), referencing the Terms of Reference of the committee, explained that the Committee has the ability to monitor and review the effectiveness of management’s responses to any recommendations made, and make recommendations on reports to the Council by Internal Audit. It was reiterated that there has been a commitment from Management Team to enforce senior officer’s attendance at F&A Committee meetings if their items are outstanding.
The Chair inquired over the red and amber opinions on the Rent Deposit Scheme and Housing Revenue Account Building Management – Compliancy audits, respectively.
The Assistant Director (Housing) explained that he would have to consult with the Director (Environment & Operations) to get answers to the latter opinion but with regard to the Rent Deposit Scheme, the audit itself was actually instigated by the Housing Department over the way the scheme was being operated. However, the Assistant Director (Housing) stated that he was confident that all the recommendations will now be delivered in time due to the new controls in place.
For clarification, the Assistant Director (Housing) explained that the scheme is a tool used to prevent homelessness in cases where people are threatened with becoming homeless. The scheme supports them in acquiring private accommodation by paying the deposit and first month’s rent in advance. However, it is a loan so it has conditions; it is only given out to people who can demonstrate to the Council that they can pay it back and it is usually collected over a two year period. Sometimes the money is not always retrieved but it is a far cheaper option available to the Council.
Resolved that Members:
- noted the outputs and performance of the Audit & Counter Fraud Plan for Gravesham for the period 1 August 2018 to 30 September 2018 as detailed at Appendix two
- approved the amendments to the 2018-19 Audit & Counter Fraud work plan as outlined in section 6 of the report at Appendix 2
- 1. F&A Cover Report - GBC A&CF Update 1 Aug 2018 to 30 Sep 2018, item 82. PDF 77 KB
- 2. APPENDIX 2 A&CF Update - 1 August 2018 to 30 September 2018, item 82. PDF 168 KB