Committee round-up: Scrutiny and Audit Committee 22.9.16

An audit of the council’s annual accounts, and progress updates for work being undertaken in waste and benefits services were among items discussed at the latest meeting of Aberdeenshire Council’s Scrutiny and Audit Committee.

Committee chair Cllr Gillian Owen opened the meeting by paying tribute to Cllr Ian Gray, who was a serving member of the group until his death in August. A minute’s silence was held in his memory.

Progress of internal audit reports discussed

As part of the regular update on the progress of audit recommendations, the committee heard from waste team manager Donald Raymond on how the service has been addressing recommendations that aim to ensure adequate control of waste collection and waste disposal budgets.

Reference was made to the introduction of a contracts register for the council, which Head of Finance Alan Wood said provided detailed information on contracts that are live, have expired, or are due for renewal.

The committee also heard from Head of Property and Facilities Management Allan Whyte regarding an audit of housing capital contracts. He outlined the progress being made to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place regarding the letting and monitoring of capital contracts.

Adult social care added to 2016/17 internal audit plan

The committee approved the 2016/17 Internal Audit Plan in connection with adult social care services in the council.

The original plan was approved in March and updated to include references to adult health and social care. It was agreed the outcome of work progressed under the updated plan would be shared with the Aberdeenshire Integrated Joint Board Audit Committee.

More work required to promote alternative delivery models

As part of an update on the work of the committee, concern was expressed about recent media coverage suggesting the council is looking to close swimming pools, which is not the case.

It was agreed that further promotion of the committees work on alternative delivery models take place in an attempt to generate a wider understanding of the council’s approach to delivering services in the future, and the toolkit created to support this approach. 

A report before the committee also outlined the progress of actions regarding two further investigations: cross service learning and development budget commissioning and delivery, and charging for services.

The committee went on to agree amended recommendations; the first noting the updates on work undertaken to date and asking that a fuller update providing information on progress be provided to the committee in February next year.

A second recommendation called for the Director of Business Services to provide full updates on the current position of the investigations to the next meeting of the committee.

Latest position on compliance with council policies and procedures discussed

A report highlighting progress made since a special meeting to discuss the committee’s concerns about compliance with council polices was discussed by councillors.

The report outlined that improvements had been made since the meeting in March, including the use of electronic management tool Covalent to better manage the implementation of audit recommendations.

Cllr Katrina Farquhar voiced concerns that the report did not fully address the concerns of the committee. In reply, Head of Finance Alan Wood provided some further information on financial regulations and the process for approving tenders.

Terms of reference for Freedom of Information investigation discussed

The objectives of an upcoming investigation on the council’s compliance with guidance for managing Freedom of Information requests was agreed by the committee.

The project will investigate whether clear guidelines are in place, whether the council is consistent in its approach to managing requests, and other related matters.

The terms of reference and an indicative timetable for the investigation were approved by the committee.

Annual accounts and external auditor’s report brought before councillors

The committee heard from external auditors Deloitte on its audit of Aberdeenshire Council’s annual accounts for 2015/16.

Councillors were told there were no ‘material issues’ of concern but that a number of procedural recommendations had been identified.

Following the presentation, the committee went on to approve the audited accounts for signature, and endorsed the accounts for the council’s charitable trusts.

The committee also approved the detailed action plan contained within the auditor’s report and agreed that a progress report be presented to the committee in March 2017.

Performance report for benefits work discussed

An update on the workload and performance of the former integrated benefits team was brought before the committee.

The report highlighted that since the committee last discussed the work of the team, a review of the section had led to the creation of The Aberdeenshire Support and Advice Team in October last year.

The update went on to outline the new team’s responsibilities and efforts being made to improve the speed of processing new claims, along with information on other improvement efforts being made within the service.

The committee acknowledged the work being done and agreed that a workshop be arranged with the team to allow further discussion.

Other matters

• The committee agreed a communications plan to promote the work of the group, hearing that future support would reflect the outcome of future governance proposals due to be considered by the full council in November
• The progress of actions from previous committee meetings was outlined to the committee
• The committee received an update on efforts being made to ensure Aberdeenshire Council is fully complying with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard which covers the security of the storage of cardholder data

The full public reports considered by the committee can be found via http://committees.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/

More information on the role of the Scrutiny and Audit Committee can be found at www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/about-us/scrutiny-and-audit/