Agenda and minutes

Venue: Boardrooms 7&8 - Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley HA9 0FJ. View directions

Contact: Kunwar Khan, Governance Officer  Tel: 020 8937 2037; Email:  kunwar.khan@brent.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence and clarification of alternate members

Minutes:

Everyone introduced themselves as this was the first meeting attended by Kunwar Khan (Governance Officer) and Vineeta Manchanda (Independent Advisor).

 

The following apologies for absence were received:

 

·         Councillor Kansagra

·         Councillor Naheerathan

·         Robert Cawley (Independent Member)

·         Kier Hopley (Independent Person)

·         Althea Loderick (Strategic Director of Resources, Brent Council)

2.

Declarations of Interest

Members are invited to declare at this stage of the meeting, the nature and existence of any relevant disclosable pecuniary or personal interests in the items on this agenda and to specify the item(s) to which they relate.

Minutes:

In relation to Agenda item 12, David Ewart (Chair) declared that he was a former Director of Finance at Ealing Council, and currently a CIPFA Member.

3.

Deputations (if any)

To hear any deputations received from members of the public in accordance with Standing Order 67.

Minutes:

There were no deputations.

4.

Minutes of previous meetings pdf icon PDF 156 KB

To approve the minutes of the Audit and Standards Advisory Committee meeting held on 5 February 2019 as a correct record.

 

To approve the minutes of the Audit and Standards Committee meeting held on 11 December 2018 as a correct record.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

It was RESOLVED that the minutes of the previous meeting, held on 5th February 2019, be approved as an accurate record.

 

It was RESOLVED that the minutes of the previous meeting, held on 11 December 2018, be approved as an accurate record.

5.

Matters arising (if any)

To consider any matters arising from the minutes of the previous meeting.

Minutes:

In relation to Minutes of 5 February 2019:

 

Page 11, item 13(iii), Internal Audit Progress Report for the period September 2018 to January 2019 - Councillor Nerva to discuss any relevant matters with Michael Bradley (Head of Audit and Investigations).

 

Page 12, item 14(ii) Counter Fraud Quarterly Progress Report 2018/19 - Concerning informing the LGA about the cost of prosecuting the cases of Blue Badge fraud vis-à-vis what the defendants had been sentenced to pay. Michael Bradley (Head of Audit and Investigations) stated this could be explored but he was unsure as to how this would have any impact on the wider sentencing regime within the criminal justice system which seemed to be beyond the LGA’s remit.

 

Page 13, item 19, Independent Advisor to the Committee - Vineeta Manchanda was now appointed as an Independent Advisor.

 

Page 13, item 19, Lender Option Borrower Option Loans (LOBO) - the LOBO briefing note was well received by Councillors and should be shared with all Committee Members.

6.

Annual Review of the Member Development Programme and Members' Expenses pdf icon PDF 134 KB

The purpose of this report is to provide members of the Audit and Standards Advisory Committee with a summary of the Member Development Programme since last reported to Committee, and to provide information regarding the Members’ Expenses Scheme.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report from Thomas Cattermole (Head of Executive and Members Services, Brent Council). He informed the Committee about the Member Development Programme, as well as, the key information relating to Members' expenses scheme. He highlighted that the key events were successful and well attended - including ‘Be a Councillor’ event - the first in Brent. He added that an action plan was being looked at in order to keep the momentum and the feedback was being collected.

 

In addition, the report provided an overview of upcoming member learning and development, together with, key strands of work undertaken listed below:

 

·         Sessions delivered (2018 – 2019)

·         Member L&D Attendance Record (May 2019 - Apr 2019)

·         Member L&D External and Paid for Programmes (May 2018 - 2019)

·         Member Needs Analysis Report Final (September 2018)

·         Brent LB Charter Plus Report (December 2018)

·         Councillor Expenses April 17 (March 2018)

 

During the discussion, the following points were noted:

 

·         In relation to a query about the extremely low attendance record of a few Members, it was pointed out that there were subtle nuances about the categories (mandatory, non-mandatory and need-based) of training and attendance record at committees as it excluded attendance at important task groups, regular surgeries and other ward related case work activities carried out by Members, therefore, it was felt by Members that the attendance factor alone was not necessarily a good indicator of gauging overall performance of Members. However, it was noted that it was an important factor and there were Group Chief Whips, one-to-one meetings, as well as, a cross-party Members Steering Group in place that regularly reviewed such attendance and would be the best place for any such concerns, feedback or comments about individual Members.

 

·         A Member felt that the engagement process should go beyond the Member Steering Group and more information was needed in future reports about the event sizes and various sessions - an example of a session held about key parking issues was cited as an example that was only attended by five councillors.

 

·         Another Member was of the view that courses and training that involved an overnight stay or the venue being very far away were not suitable for people with child-care and other similar responsibilities and thus should be reviewed, with alternatives considered/provided, wherever possible.

 

·         In responses to various queries from Members, Thomas Cattermole (Head of Executive and Members Services) stated that the Council used needs-based approach and endeavoured its best to host local events to provide the best value for money, wherever possible. He added that Disability Awareness, as well as, Mental Health trainings would be included in the next programme,

 

After the discussion, the Committee RESOLVED to note the work being undertaken by the Member Learning and Development Steering Group in ensuring effective training and development for Brent’s elected representatives which responded both to the Council’s corporate priorities and councillors’ individual training needs.

7.

Annual Standards Report (including quarterly update on Gifts & Hospitality) pdf icon PDF 89 KB

This is the Monitoring Officer’s Annual Report to the Audit and Standards Advisory Committee for 2018. It provides an update on Member conduct issues, work of the Audit and Standards Advisory Committee, the Audit and Standards Committee and the Monitoring Officer during 2018.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report from Debra Norman (Monitoring Officer and Director of Legal & HR) who presented the Monitoring Officer’s Annual Report to the Audit and Standards Advisory Committee for 2018. She provided an update on Member conduct issues, work of the Audit and Standards Advisory Committee, the Audit and Standards Committee and the Monitoring Officer during 2018.

 

The report included information and details relating to the following categories:

 

·         Register of Gifts & Hospitalities

·         Two Monitoring Officer Advice Notes (MOANs) issued

·         Committee on Standards in Public Life - recommendations and comments

 

The Committee noted that there were only two complaints made against Members in the identified period. After careful consideration, one of the complaints was deemed invalid whereas the other one was not upheld - such a low level of complaints was highlighted as a good sign.

 

In response to a query, the Monitoring Officer undertook to provide information about the indemnity for Independent Members of the Committee.

 

David Ewart (Chair) thanked the Monitoring Officer for a comprehensive report.

 

The Committee RESOLVED that the content of the report be noted.

8.

Draft Internal Audit and Investigations Annual Plan 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 95 KB

This report sets out the draft Internal Plan for 2019/20 and the basis on which the plan has been prepared.  All Local Authorities are required to make proper provision for Internal Audit in line with the 1972 Local Government Act and the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2003 (as amended). The Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (PSIAS) require, “…chief audit executive to establish risk based plans to determine the priorities of the internal audit activity, consistent with the organisation’s goals”.

 

In accordance with the terms of reference for the Committee and in accordance with Standard 2000 – Managing the Internal Audit Activity as outlined within the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards, the Audit and Standards Advisory Committee is asked to review and approve the 2019/20 Internal audit plan. 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report from Michael Bradley (Head of Internal Audit and Investigations, Brent Council) which set out the draft Internal Plan for 2019/20, and the basis on which the plan has been prepared. It was noted that all Local Authorities were required to make proper provision for Internal Audit in line with the 1972 Local Government Act and the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2003. In addition, the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (PSIAS) required, “chief audit executive to establish risk based plans to determine the priorities of the internal audit activity, consistent with the organisation’s goals”.

 

David Ewart (Chair) stated that this was an important piece of work. He carefully went through the report, page by page, inviting comments and feedback from the Committee.

 

During the discussion, the following points were noted:

 

In response to Members’ queries about consultation with the voluntary sector, and partners -  their capacity, anticipated outcomes as well as various pots of funding - Michael Bradley (Head of Internal Audit and Investigations) stated that it was possible, in principle, that a sample feedback response could be looked at in the internal audit.

 

Carolyn Downs (Chief Executive, Brent Council) stated that the report before the Committee was about corporate monitoring, control environment and the safeguards which were in place. She added that Peter Gadsdon (Director Performance Policy & Partnerships, Brent Council) was undertaking a full review of the voluntary and community sector and a report would go to April 2019 Cabinet that would contain relevant details and further information.

 

Mr Gadsdon stated that any council funding was granted based on a clear contract agreement which was carefully monitored, with any shortcomings picked up in the internal and external audit checks.

 

On Members’ request, Mr Bradley responded that he was happy to provide a bit more description and information about ‘Prevent’ activities and programme highlighted on page 150.

 

In relation to counter fraud and resources, David Ewart (Chair) highlighted that it was worth noting that 85% was focused on external fraud mitigation. He thanked Mr Bradley for the important update noting that any audit process was as good as the information it received.

 

The Committee RESOLVED that:

 

The content of the plan (Appendix A) be approved in line with the Committee’s role, as defined in the Constitution of the Council. [To consider the strategic and annual audit plans, and consider the level of assurance these can give over the Council’s corporate governance and risk management arrangements]

 

 

9.

Annual Report & Certification of Grants and Returns 2017/18 pdf icon PDF 259 KB

This report summarises the results of work we have carried out on the Authority’s 2017/18 grant claims and returns. This includes the work we have completed under the Public Sector Audit Appointment (PSAA) certification arrangements, as well as the work we have completed on other returns under separate engagement terms.

Minutes:

The Committee received a long-delayed KPMG report summarising the results of their work carried out on the Authority’s 2017/18 grant claims and returns. This included the work KPMG completed under the Public Sector Audit Appointment (PSAA) certification arrangements, as well as, the work completed on other returns under separate engagement terms. Unfortunately, no representative of KPMG was able to attend in person and a very late request to dial-in was not possible due to technical issues.

 

Conrad Hall (Chief Finance Officer, Brent Council) stated that he was happy to answer any questions or refer them to KPMG if required.

 

In relation to a concern about the slightly increased fee highlighted on page 159, Mr Hall stated that it was prescribed and little could be done about it.

 

David Ewart (Chair) requested an item update about Housing benefits, review the reasons errors relating to the incorrect Local Authority rate being used and the errors in the calculation in non-dependent income figures and take appropriate action following the review, as highlighted on page 164.

 

Subject to the above, the Committee RESOLVED to note the report.

10.

Review of the Use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) Powers in 2018 pdf icon PDF 108 KB

The report explains the Council’s use and conduct of covert surveillance techniques when investigating serious criminal offences relying on the powers made available to local authorities in Part II of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report from Debra Norman (Director of Legal and HR Services) explaining the Council’s use and conduct of covert surveillance techniques when investigating serious criminal offences relying on the powers made available to local authorities in Part II of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).

 

The report included information about:

 

·         Brent Council’s RIPA Policy and Procedures (December 2018);

·         Note to all staff on use of Social Media and Internet;

·         Protocol for the use of Brent Public CCTV Systems for Surveillance - (Sep 2018);

·         Visitors to CCTV Operations Room Sheet; and

·         OSC Inspection Report (November 2016).

 

The Committee noted that the use of RIPA powers by local authorities was tightly controlled. Initially, directed surveillance or the use of a CHIS had to be assessed in detail and authorised in writing internally by a senior officer for necessity and proportionate factors. Subsequently, it had to be approved by a magistrate before the authorisation takes effect. In addition, there was an ‘oversight’internally by the Council’s Monitoring Officer, who also acted as the Council’s Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) for the purposes of the Home Office codes of practice.

 

The Council’s use of its RIPA powers was also overseen externally by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner (IPC), formerly the Office of Surveillance Commissioners (OSC). Inspections on the Council’s use of RIPA were undertaken every two to three years. The most recent Council inspection was on 8 November 2016, and the Chief Surveillance Commissioner wrote to the Council’s Chief Executive acknowledging that the inspector considered the Council’s policy and procedure document to be “excellent”. Describing the Council’s standards as “impressive” and noting that “the attitude of the Council to the need for training and awareness is sensible and far sighted”. No formal recommendations were made but “some suggestions were offered for ‘fine tuning’” - all of which were completed, e.g. proper authorisation about CCTV data and the guidance about the use of social media.

 

In response to Members’ query, it was highlighted that these powers were not known to be used specifically to tackle knife crime.

 

The Committee RESOLVED:

 

      i.        To note the contents of the report which set out the arrangements to ensure compliance with RIPA and the statutory Codes of Practice; and

 

      ii.            That there were no significant policy changes recommended out of this review.

11.

Corporate Risk Register Update pdf icon PDF 103 KB

This report provides an updated Corporate Risk Register following a review of the effectiveness of the Risk Management approach and a series of workshops with departmental management teams. In accordance with the terms of reference for the Audit and Standards Advisory Committee, the report is presented to ‘enable the Committee to monitor the effective development and operation of risk management and corporate governance in the Council.’

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received an updated Corporate Risk Register from Michael Bradley (Head of Internal Audit and Investigations) following a review of the effectiveness of the Risk Management approach and a series of workshops with departmental management teams. In accordance with the terms of reference for the Audit and Standards Advisory Committee (A&SAC), the report was presented to ‘enable the Committee to monitor the effective development and operation of risk management and corporate governance in the Council.’

 

David Ewart (Chair) stated that this was a very useful and important item. He encouraged the Committee to go through the document with him page and page as this was an opportunity to stand back and monitor the situation.

 

During the discussion, the following points were noted:

 

·         Members carefully reviewed the document and felt that the document used a good methodology and the heat map were very useful. It was underlined that perhaps a third element - control and influence - should also be borne mind;

 

·         It was felt that the community cohesion element could be amplified with further work and commentary;

 

·         In response to a query about the format and information, it was clarified that the Council did use score and mitigation factors as part of the overall assessment process but that kind of detail was not generally reported at this strategic level;

 

·         The split provided between the budget overspend and savings not achieved on page 210 was considered very helpful; and

 

·         Information about the Corporate Register and hard to recruit/retain posts should be included in the Members’ Bulletin.

 

David Ewart (Chair) thanked the officers for the update and said that this was a major improvement.

 

The Committee RESOLVED that the current corporate risk register and heat map included at Appendix A to the report be noted.

12.

London Counter Fraud Hub pdf icon PDF 127 KB

This report provide a briefing to the Audit and Standards Advisory Committee on the “London Counter Fraud Hub” and to note that, subject to comments made, the Council is considering entry into the contract as a Participating Authority and award a contract to the provider of the Hub, which would be by way of the an individual Cabinet Member decision.

Minutes:

The Committee noted the report on the “London Counter Fraud Hub” which highlighted that the Council was considering entry into the contract as a Participating Authority and to award a contract to the provider of the Hub, which would be by way of the an individual Cabinet Member decision.

 

David Ewart (Chair) stated that it was a sensible proposal with clear finances and good risk analysis with mitigation.

 

The Committee RESOLVED that:

 

·         The Audit and Standards Advisory Committee note the information provided and that, subject to comments from the Committee, the deputy Leader (and Lead Member for Finance) proposes to make the following decisions;

 

·         The council joins the London Counter Fraud Hub as a participating authority through the collaborative contract let by the London Borough of Ealing and awarded to CIPFA Business Ltd (“the Agreement.”);

 

·         The council authorises the provision to the Hub of council data to CIPFA for the purposes of preventing and detecting fraudulent or erroneous activity; and

 

·         The council notes that the contract will be for a period of seven years without break clauses.

13.

Internal Audit External Quality Assessment update pdf icon PDF 143 KB

This report provides an update an external assessment of internal audit was conducted during October 2018 in accordance with Standard 1312 of the UK Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (PSIAS). The principal objective of the assessment was to assess internal audit’s conformance to the PSIAS.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

 

The Committee received an update on the external assessment of internal audit that was conducted during October 2018 in accordance with Standard 1312 of the UK Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (PSIAS). The principal objective of the assessment was to assess internal audit’s conformance to the PSIAS. In response to a query, it was noted that ‘Conformed’ was the highest possible rating in this area.

 

The outcome of the assessment reflected a professional and successful Internal Audit service and demonstrated a good level of compliance with the PSIAS. The service had a high degree of independence, in fulfilling the definition of internal auditing and judged to be ‘Generally Conformed’.

 

David Ewart (Chair) appreciated the report and requested an update report on the progress of work on the only outstanding item - 1220, Due Professional Care.

 

Subject to the above, the Committee RESOLVED to note the content of the report.

14.

Update on Financial and Procedural Rules Governing the Mayor's Charity Appeal pdf icon PDF 105 KB

The purpose of this report is to update the Audit and Standards Advisory Committee on the recommended changes to be made to the financial and procedural rules for governing the Mayor’s Charity Appeal; and seek the Audit and Standards Committee’s approval of the same.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report is to on the recommended changes to be made to the financial and procedural rules for governing the Mayor’s Charity Appeal; and sought the Audit and Standards Committee’s approval of the same.

 

David Ewart (Chair) stated that the mayoralty must be beyond reproach and therefore it was sensible approach to bring an update to the rules.

 

The Committee RESOLVED that:

 

      i.        To consider, note and recommend the contents of the report and the proposed changes relating to the financial and procedural management of the Mayor’s Charity Appeal as set out in Appendix One of this report; and

 

    ii.        To consider the contents of the report and approve the proposed changes to the Financial and Procedural Rules governing the Mayor’s Charity Appeal.

 

 

 

 

15.

Forward Plan and Agenda for the next meeting pdf icon PDF 109 KB

To note the Committee’s Forward Plan up to April 2020 and agree a draft agenda for the next meeting, which would be reviewed and finalised by the Chief Finance Officer, the Head of Audit and the Chair of the Committee one month after the date of the current meeting.

Minutes:

The Committee RESOLVED to note the content of the Forward Plan.

16.

Any other urgent business

Notice of items to be raised under this heading must be given in writing to the Head of Executive and Member Services or his representative before the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 60.

Minutes:

David Ewart (Chair) announced that it was the last meeting of Sheila Darr (Independent Member) as she had decided to step down. On behalf of the Committee, Mr Ewart thanked her for the wonderful service to the Standards Committee and then the merged Audit and Standards Advisory Committee.  Ms Darr thanked the Committee for their kind words and stated that she wanted to focus on things that she felt passionate about.