At the request of the Head of Strategic Finance and Property and with the consent of Members, the Chairman agreed to change the order of the agenda to bring forward the Annual Governance Statement (AGS), (Item 12 on the Agenda). The Head of Strategic Finance and Property said there was crossover between this item and the cyber security update and bringing forward this item would allow Members to raise questions with the Assistant Director of Digital and Transformation and the Deputy Chief Executive Officer before they left the meeting.
The Head of Strategic Finance and Property presented the AGS report, summarising the main key points. Particular reference was made to the improvements the Council had made, which had been noted by the Shared Internal Audit Service (SIAS). In the previous year, the Council had six limited assurance points and twenty one high priority points. Only one point of each category was noted this year. Other previous key problems, relating to issues such as the IT shared service and Section 106 payments, had been resolved. The report this year had highlighted problems again relating to IT, but high priority points had been swiftly addressed.
The Head of Stategic Finance and Property said that the Head of Legal and Democratic Services had carried out work to bring the Council’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) policy up to date. Officers were satisfied that appropriate governance arrangements were e in place, but referred to the need to address two issues going forward to ensure continuous improvement. First, by promptly addressing areas for improvement identified by SIAS and, secondly, by constructing a governance calendar to ensure key documents and policies were kept up to date.
Councillor Ward-Booth, said it was alarming that in the two years since GDPR legislation came into force, the Council had not been able to put the correct procedures into place, such as for the destruction of data. He asked whether there was a more concrete timeline for these targets to be achieved, as the AGS seemed rather non-committal on this aspect.
The Deputy Chief Executive said that progress had been made and the Council’s data retention schedule, which had previously not been located, had now been supplied to auditors for inclusion in the final draft. A report on GDPR was being prepared for the Leadership Team, which would then be presented to the Executive. It was also understood that the Assistant Director of Digital and Transformation would be carrying out a similar exercise for the Senior Leadership Team at SBC.
The Chairman asked that the Committee be kept up to date on this matter, and it was agreed this would be revisited at the Committee’s next meeting.
Councillor Stowe said that the Committee had received a report on Section 106 monies in September 2019 and commented that it would be useful if the Committee could once again receive this report in the upcoming September 2020 meeting. This was agreed.
Councillor Alder asked whether the Committee could be confident that the Council’s measures against fraud and corruption were sufficient, especially given the proliferation in the provision of grants to local businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report seemed rather self-congratulatory, and some stronger language on the Council’s resolve to prevent fraud and corruption would be welcome.
Nick Jennings, Shared Anti-Fraud Service (SAFS), said that whilst he could not speak to the AGS, the Council had performed well in relation to fraud and corruption prevention. Fraud inevitably occurred, but the Council was doing ongoing work to mitigate and manage this risk. This mitigation work would be covered in more detail in the SAFS report later in the meeting.
The Head of Strategic Finance and Property said he was happy to take Councillor Alder’s observations on board and would reinforce the language in the report.
The Chairmanasked whether it was correct that the Committee was responsible for keeping the Code of Conduct up to date and investigating any possible breaches, as he could not recall any items in relation to Standards coming before the Committee. Neither did he recall any report on the Council’s Anti-Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Policy.
The Deputy Chief Executive Officer said the Head of Legal and Democratic Services was primarily responsible for keeping the Code of Conduct up to date. The Standards Sub-Committee would investigate possible breaches; a meeting of the Sub-Committee would only occur if a possible breach was reported.
The SAFS Officer said an overview of the Council’s response to fraud had been provided at the previous meeting of the Performance, Audit and Governance Oversight Committee. He said the Council’s Anti-Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Policy was currently being re-written, with particular regard to whistle-blowing and anti-money laundering (AML) measures. The SAFS Officer and the Head of Strategic Finance and Property confirmed this policy would be presented to the Committee when completed.
The Head of Strategic Finance and Property said further, in response to the Chairman’s query, that the AGS and final accounts would be presented back to Members. Ernst & Young (EY) were currently finishing the audit on these items. As requested by the Chairman and Members, the AGS and final accounts could be presented in a ‘tracked change’ format, so Members could see where amendments had been made.