Members gave consideration to a report of the Assistant Director of Corporate
Governance and Strategic Financial Management, which provided a high-level progress report on the work of the Audit and Counter Fraud team for the 2020/21 financial year.
The report summarised the work carried out by the Audit and Counter Fraud Team from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. Due to the pandemic, a revised eight-month plan was drafted in order to consider the risks and changes to the working practices.
The team prioritised work on the Fundamental Financial Systems (FFS) reviews related to 2020/21 transactions and work to support the 2020/21 audit of the financial accounts. The second stage FFS audits had been completed, with work commencing on 8 February. All the fieldwork as part of the review of 13 systems with throughput value of over £10m had been completed. Reports were in the draft stage.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, Internal Audit continued to provide non-audit related administration support to Revenues and Benefits services in relation to the Covid related grants; and continued to provide advice and support to the Council around Covid Related processes and issues until 31 March 2021.
In addition, other Audit and Counter Fraud Team highlights included:
• Contribution to reviewing and controls around processing Winter Grants, and continued support around Business Grants and discretionary Business Grants reviews and queries.
• Carrying out investigations around potential fraud and error on Business Grants.
• Advisory work had been delivered by the Internal Audit Team to colleagues, including those managing the People Programme and the implementation of the ICT solution to reflect the potential issues with the system, which had been completed.
• Business Grant Assurance review around the Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF), the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF), Local Authority Discretionary Grant Fund (LADGF) and Local Restrictions Support Grants administered by the Council.
• Review and certification around European grants.
• The Counter Fraud and Direct Payments Audit Teams (Adults and Children) had continued to deliver outcomes which had generated £244,814 and £2,161,075 (respectively) during the 2020/21 financial year.
• The Team were in the process of implementing a cost-effective solution to the Audit Management System, to ensure an appropriate mix of external and internal resources to achieve value for money. Training had been provided and system was being implemented in partnership through Unity ICT and Pentana Software.
Members were informed that the work of the Service had continued and PACE interviews, which had been delayed due to the inability to meet face to face, were now being undertaken.
It had been suggested that the Council had not been quick in paying business grants and it was explained that this was due to undertaking checks and balances to prevent fraud. This had been the right thing to do, to ensure the grants went to legitimate businesses, rather than pay quickly to people who were not entitled. Internally, resources had quickly been diverted to administer this large amount of grant money in a very short time.
Members were informed that, once the PACE interviews were completed, here may be a small number of cases where the Council may seek to recover a business grant. The interviews with regards to adults and children’s services were to address sanctions.
RESOLVED that the 2020/21 Audit and Counter Fraud Progress Report be noted.