The Chair of Wrexham Council’s Audit Committee has voiced his displeasure after only ten Councillors took part in a survey, and six were Committee members.
Only six of the twelve Councillor members of the Audit Committee itself took part in the survey, with only four of the remaining forty Councillors bothering to take part. Six of fourteen possible Wrexham Council Officers took part.
Part of the Audit Committee’s role is to review and scrutinise the council’s financial affairs, and make reports and recommendations on them. The meeting held today contained their Annual Report documents. Their report highlights improvements in the level and quality of governance, risk and control across the Council and gives detail of the work carried out. That work includes checking out documents, finance statements and external/internal audit reports and generally operating as part of the checks and governance process to keep an eye on things on behalf of the people of Wrexham.
Jerry O’Keeffe, the Independent Chairperson of the Audit Committee, in his letter accompanying the report politely expressed his disappointment at the lack of engagement from Councillors: “…there is also room for improvement and the recent survey to determine the effectiveness Audit Committee highlighted some areas where the Committee can develop still further.
“It was disappointing that the majority of elected members did not participate in the survey and I would ask those that did not contribute to consider the reasons why and make every effort to do so next year.”
It is possible the number of Councillor interaction could even be reduced by one, as it is likely Mr O’Keeffe filled in the survey himself as a member of the Audit Committee.
The report notes: “The number of responses from both Audit Committee and non-Audit Committee members was very disappointing and the Chair of the Audit Committee has challenged members as to why the response rate was so low. It is also important for all Elected Members who did not complete the survey to consider why they did not complete the survey and make every effort to do so when the exercise is repeated in 2017. The survey is an important method of demonstrating effectiveness and also highlighting areas where improvements can be made so it is essential that all Elected Members take part and give their views.”
A break down of the respondents is displayed:
The outcome of the survey can be found on Page 20 of this PDF, and has one person disagreeing with the statement “The Audit Committee is independent and objective?” , although ten people agree and six further agree strongly.
Later in the meeting the Committee are presented with the
During 2015/16 31 fraud allegations were reported to Internal Audit, with 7 proven. The report says: “This was a significant increase on previous years and may represent the impact of increased awareness raising”
The 31 allegations are broken down to, 8 concerning misuse of ICT facilities, 8 concerning time management, 6 concerning possible theft or money or assets, 7 concerning Tenancy fraud.
The seven proven frauds involved the misuse of ICT facilities and/or the abuse of time management, for example one noted as ‘Using email for non-work related items when not clocked off’, and ‘Claimed additional time’, with the latter noting the Council recovered the excess payment as a result of false claim.
There are several unproven cases, one being ‘theft of iPad’ where an Apple device was missing at the end of a summer term in a school and was not recovered.
The report concludes “At the time of producing this report, there were no cases which proved any material financial loss to the Council during 2015-16, although one of the cases in progress concerns ICT equipment which cannot be accounted for plus the possible theft of cash.”
“There is nothing to indicate that fraud is a major problem at the Council or that its incidence is increasing significantly. Counter fraud procedures at the Council are generally in line with good practice, but resources are limited.”