Mazars Audit Completion Report
This report presents to the Committee the Audit Completion Report from Mazars and communicates their findings of the audit for the year ended 31 March 2020.
The Committee were joined by auditors from Mazars who introduced the report. The auditors noted that unusually the report was a draft due to ongoing investigations and noted that an audit certificate should be finalised shortly. Members enquired about the ongoing investigation’s timeframe and what evidence was still to be submitted. The auditors confirmed that they were not satisfied with some of the current information provided in relation to the business case for the exit of the former chief executive and that the report would not have a strict timeframe but would be brought to the Committee as soon as possible.
The role of the Monitoring Officer was discussed and it confirmed their role in relation to standards and advice they can give in relation to a member conflict of interest. It was confirmed that the Localism Act places the emphasis on elected Members to declare an interest and that the Monitoring Officer could advise Members on issues.
Members discussed the investigation into the exit of the former chief executive. Elements of the exit package were considered and enquiries were made as to whether the last chief executive left via early retirement or redundancy. It was noted that it was an early retirement on the grounds of business efficiency but the information taken to the meeting of Staffing Matters and Urgency which confirmed the early retirement should have clearly stated that some of the payments were not strictly contractual but were paid using the Council’s discretionary powers.
Members made enquiries regarding the information relating to business efficiencies in relation to the decision for an early retirement of the former chief executive. Discussion took place regarding the role of several different proposed restructures of the senior management team and that the 2018 proposed restructure was confirmed as not having been connected to the exit of the former chief executive. Information provided in the business case was discussed and it was noted that it focused on the settlement agreement and provided a lack of other details. Officers confirmed a review of the business case template would take place. Following further questions the auditors confirmed the importance of a good and detailed business case. They highlighted challenges to decision making where a business case could be deemed to have provided insufficient or incorrect information.
Members also discussed a number of other areas in the report including the continued risk raised in relation to Council passwords. It was confirmed that COVID-19 and working from home had effected the Council’s ability to change and improve passwords, as officers could not update their password remotely. Officers noted that work was being undertaken with ICT to improve passwords across the Council. Concerns around the North Yorkshire Pension fund were raised from the report, the auditors confirmed that this was in relation to the value of assets effected by factors such as COVID-19 and was a risk for the wider sector.
i. The Committee noted the matters set out in the Audit Completion Report presented by the external auditor.
Reason: To ensure the proper consideration of the opinion and
conclusions of the external auditor in respect of the annual audit of accounts and review of the council’s arrangements for ensuring value for money.
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