Agenda and minutes

Audit Committee - Monday 18th September 2023 7.30 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Council Offices, The Campus, Welwyn Garden City, Herts, AL8 6AE

Contact: Democratic Services 

No. Item



To note any substitution of Committee members made in accordance with Council Procedure Rules.


There were no substitutions.





There were no apologies for absence.




To confirm as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 28 June 2023 (previously circulated).


The minutes of the meeting held on 28 June 2023 were agreed as a correct record and noted by the chair.





No notifications of urgent business were received.




To note declarations of Members’ disclosable pecuniary interests, non-disclosable pecuniary interests and non-pecuniary interests in respect of items on this agenda.


There were no declarations of interests by members.



Risk Management Quarter 1 Risk Registers pdf icon PDF 134 KB

To receive a report of the Executive Director (Finance and Transformation).

Additional documents:


Members received a report of Risk Registers from Quarter 1 for this financial year, correct as of 30 June 2023.


The Assistant Director (Finance) stated Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC) approved new risk management policy strategy and framework at end of 2022/23, for adoption from 1 April 2023, and this is the first time that risks have been reported in this way under the new framework.

The risks presented include all of the identified strategic risks, along with the operational risks, with a residual assessment of serious or severe.


The risk register had a comprehensive review and, following the review, was imported into the new system in May 2023. Due to this, it is not possible to include a comparison to the previous quarter's report. Trend information is only the trend between early May and end of June. Work is being done on the reporting, so trend information on the inherent risk will also be shown in future reports.


A member development session was held on risk management last week and for any members that could not attend the session, a recording would be available.


The following points were raised and discussed:


  • It was queried what the risk score was given for finances for the council for the next the financial year. Officers stated the risk registers only reflected Q1, it does not look forward.
  • Members were happy with new format and residual scoring.
  • It was stated that in May, there were strikes from bin operatives. A member then queried why there is no risk highlighted of this or other potential sub-contractors striking in the risk register. Officers stated the risk was not currently included in the risk register, but it was noted that this could be considered going forward.
  • Clarity was sought regarding whether the Inflation Risk score could be applied to current inflation statistics. Are the risk scores a good predictor for current and future inflation risk. Officers stated that the risks were for end of Q1, currently looking at Q2 risks, which would consider current inflation.As inflation is falling, the report had commentary, which is why residual risk had decreased from inherent risk because, since setting the risks, the outturn position for 2022/23 had been completed.Could not predict exactly where the council thought it would be in terms of outturn, therefore the residual risk had come down.This will be reviewed for Q2 but is a positive of having inherent risks score to start and then the residual risk score after other factors considered.
  • The Chair noted that the Executive Director (Finance and Transformation) would look into further 10 risk items raised by the Chair and talk to the risk manager involved, following a conversation about risk scores conducted outside of the committee meeting.





Members noted:

A)    the attached risk registers at Quarter 1; and

B)    the comments and actions in respect of the strategic and serious/severe operational risks.




Shared Internal Audit (SIAS) progress report pdf icon PDF 676 KB

To receive the Shared Internal Audit Progress Report.


The Committee received the SIAS progress report from K. Fuller on delivering the Council's 2023/24 annual Internal Audit Plan,


The report provided the in-year Audit Plan review and proposed plan amendments, the implementation status of previously agreed audit recommendations and update on performance indicators, as of 04/09/2023.


During the presentation, the following points were highlighted:

  • Paragraph 2.2,the table details all finalised audits since the last meeting of the Committee.4 completed projects are reported, 1 substantial and 3 with reasonable assurance opinions.
  • Paragraph 2.4, noted no new high priority recommendations were raised as a result of the work completed and reported in the table at paragraph 2.2.
  • There were no outstanding high priority recommendations from previous reports.
  • Paragraph 2.5 highlighted 12 medium priority recommendations due for follow up during this cycle, six have been implemented. An update had been provided in respect of the outstanding medium priority recommendations in Appendix D.
  • Paragraph 2.6 outlined there have been no plan amendments proposed within this reporting period.
  • Paragraph 2.8 provided an update of performance indicators; billable days were 29%. 3 projects at draft report stage. Since the report was published, another draft now been issued.
  • 6 of 9 satisfaction questionnaires had been returned, all at a satisfactory level and no high priority recommendations were made.
  • Appendix A provided a detailed summary of all audits and their current delivery status.
  • Appendix B detailed all audits and their start dates and statuses across the year.


The following points were raised and discussed:


  • As the report was early in the financial year, it can appear behind in terms of percentages, but it would balance throughout the year.
  • A Member raised an item for urgent business at meeting conclusion.





The Audit Committee noted the Internal Audit progress report for the period to 4 September 2023, and note the implementation status of internal audit recommendations and the management update.



Shared Internal Audit (SIAS) Annual Report pdf icon PDF 886 KB

To receive the Shared Internal Audit Annual Report.


The Committee received the SIAS annual report presented by K. Fuller.


SIAS are Council's internal auditors and are a partnership between eight local authorities within Hertfordshire. Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) acts as the host partner, with all SIAS staff HCC employees. WHBC is one partner and the shared service is governed through a partnership board, with the WHBC Executive Director (Finance and Transformation) a sitting member.


SIAS has been in place for over 12 years and has delivered across the partnership over 3,000 audit days yearly. The service has 17 staff members and have a co-sourced audit partner, BDO, to provide specialist skills and provide additional resilience.


The report was for information purposes and differs from annual assurance opinion brought to the Committee earlier this year, as it relates to whole shared service. The reports primary aim was to provide the Committee with an overview of wider performance, achievements and future development activities for service.





Members noted the Internal Audit Annual Report



Shared Anti-Fraud Services (SAFS) progress report on Anti Fraud Plan 2023/2024 pdf icon PDF 608 KB

To receive the Shared Anti-Fraud Services (SAFS) Progress Report on Anti Fraud Plan 2023/2024

Additional documents:


The Committee received the SAFS progress report, presented by N. Jennings, on Anti-Fraud Plan 2023/2024.


As Council joined the partnership in April 2023 the report would not review previous years. The report looked at progress with delivery of the anti-fraud plan reviewed and approved by Committee in March 2023.


Report details how SAFS have been embedding into WHBC to ensure officer and staff awareness of the service and how it works, ensuring SAFS can access systems needed and data required to conduct work.


The plan was agreed with the relevant officers and brought to the Committee for noting.


The report discusses what SAFS are doing,  how SAFS are introducing the service to the council and outcomes from some of the work.In particular, allegations of fraud reported, and the types of fraud that a local authority could see. Allegations could be received from the public and staff. Some work being done with the Comms team is ensuring public are aware of how to report suspicions of fraud to council, as well as officers.


Since the report was produced, the number of allegations increased to 25.


Work is being done by SAFS with the housing team looking at the right-to-buy scheme and how it is administered by WHBC, to identify or prevent any money laundering occurring.New processes were introduced and SAFS officers had undertaken an additional review once applications accepted by WHBC. No money laundering had been identified, nor suspicions of money laundering or fraud regarding this year’s applications. Some historic applications have also been reviewed.


SAFS are working with officers to review output from national fraud initiative (NFI). In March, Members were given an overview of what NFI is and how it works. The NFI produced 1294 matches for WHBC. Officers review matches to identify whether it is fraud, an error, an administrative change, or no action is required.


361 matches have been reviewed, identifying £47,000 of savings or potential revenue for WHBC. The savings or potential revenue came from 26 of what are presently classified errors, no actual fraud identified at moment. 17 further matters presently under review with SAFS.


The Council joined the Hertfordshire FraudHub this year, which works the same as the NFI, but work on a quarterly cycle rather than a 2-year cycle. Every 3 months, the Council's data is taken, reviewed and matched. Data analytics are then used to identify whether any fraud had occurred in the previous three months from the data. SAFS are currently reviewing over 4,000 matches from the activity and taken data from areas such as:

  • Payroll,
  • Housing
  • Housing waiting list
  • Council tax
  • Housing benefit
  • Electoral roll


Large amounts of data are being reviewed which will produce a large number of false positives.Therefore, the volume of data needs reviewing to identify any fraud and fix any errors in data.Next quarter, SAFS would then expect a lower volume of output from that to be undertaken. Work is also being done with the Revenues Team.Analyse Local software assists SAFS  ...  view the full minutes text for item 17.




The following points were raised and discussed:


  • A Member noted the recent issues of Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC). The member had not seen e-mails internally on Council’s portfolio regarding whether any reviews or checks had been done. The member suggested that Committee put a note to the officers requesting a report or written update concerning this, to ensure it is not missed by WHBC. Stated they were unsure if anything relevant had previously gone to a committee. The Officer stated they would get a swift report for the Member.