Monday 16 April 2018

Questions to the Audit Committee

I have submitted the following questions to the forthcoming audit committee this Thursday. I hold out little hope of getting appropriate answers.

Agenda Item 7
  • At 1.3.1 the numbers do not seem to add up. Should it read 49 high priority actions (not 45)?
  • On accounts payable the report states that “Because these controls rely on data being entered correctly, they have historically not been very successful at automatically detecting duplicates”. Is the report implying that data is not being entered correctly?
  • The reports states that “CAFT have found that the high number of false duplicates identified make it uneconomical to investigate these transactions”. When did CAFT first identify the high number of false duplicates, why has this not been raised with the audit committee before this meeting given the Integra system has been in place for 4½ years, and who made the judgement that it was “uneconomic to investigate the transactions”?
  • Given that there are no detective controls, outside of the annual National Fraud Initiative (NFI) data matching exercise, to identify potential duplicate payments made and, more seriously, that the  Accounts Payable team have not been able to perform their own review of data to identify duplicate invoices submitted for payment, what is the risk that over the last 4½ years duplicate payments have been made but not investigated.
  • Why didn’t the Accounts Payable team disclose before this internal audit that they were unable to perform their own review of duplicate payments and why didn’t the Commissioning Group Finance identify this problem before now.
  • Please can you clarify the issue relating to the BACS payment run – is it that confirmation was received for the total amount being paid but not individual payments, or that there was no audit trail to evidence the preparation of the BACS report i.e. were the BACS payments correct in the first place?
  • Will ensuring all policies and procedures are uploaded to an appropriate shared drive so employees have remote access to all relevant documents ensure that staff in Sussex and Darlington actually read or familiarise themselves with the policies and procedures. What measure are in place to ensure this is more than just a box ticking exercise?
  • In the separate 19 page Internal Audit Report it highlights a high risk problem with the Cashbook Team. The sample of 25 unallocated receipts amounted to £559,000. What is the current total of all unallocated receipts?
  • Who is responsible for the Cashbook team, Capita or LBB.
  • If 19 of the 25 unallocated receipts were not investigated at all and 6 of the 25 were partially investigated but not followed up or resolved how many residents has been hassled unnecessarily or worse, have had the matter referred to a debt collection agency when the debt had been paid?
  • In the Outstanding actions section the highways actions have been deferred yet again. On point 1 why are Re taking so long to agree additional performance indicators proposed by the Council given that Re is supposed to be a JV between the Council and Capita?
  • On point 2 if the KPIs in question will only include the elements that Re can influence yet Re are the council’s agent for monitoring the LoHAC contract with Conway, how can we have any confidence that the LoHAC work will be delivered satisfactorily and that there is a rigid monitoring system in place?
  • Given that Capita have claimed and received a large gainshare payment for the “savings” on the LoHAC contract and that Re received a large payment from Barnet for advice on the LoHAC contract, surely they should accept responsibility for the delivery of that contract and the consequent KPIs.
  • On point 3, is requesting supporting information from the contractor the most appropriate way to validate performance if you already have concerns about the performance data provided by the contractor. Surely there should be a separate third party or Council validation process?
  • At Point 21 of the completed actions I note that “arrangements to streamline and make capturing and collation of DBS data more efficient will be implemented”. However, in light of the revelations identified in the recent Private Eye article where a Capita Director allegedly stated that “in the vast majority of cases the level of check could not be evidenced and in many cases was not correct”  and that such failures “will result in the DBS considering suspension or cancellation of our registration to use the DBS service”, please can you provide some reassurance that streamlining the capturing and collation of DBS data does not render the checks invalid?
Agenda item 8
  • The CAFT report highlights an on-going financial fraud investigation case. While I understand that you do not wish to discuss the specifics of this case, I am sufficiently alarmed by shortcomings under agenda item 7  that I believe it is important that any investigation into how the system failures permitted this fraud to take place must be addressed immediately to ensure that no further fraud can take place. Please can you confirm that the systemic faults that allowed this fraud have been identified and addressed already, that you will investigate how the systemic failure were allowed to exist in the first place and why Capita, the Commissioning Finance Team or internal audit did not identify the systemic risk sooner?
Agenda item 9
  • In light of the financial fraud investigation, do you think the additional allocation of 455 days for  blue badge investigations is appropriate and that instead the additional time should be allocated to identifying and stopping staff and financial fraud?
Agenda item 11
  • I note the audit plan recognises the additional powers and duties of the external auditor and, in particular, the point that these powers allow electors to raise questions about the accounts and consider objections. What it fails to address is the time taken to address these questions and objections. As such do you think it is acceptable that it has taken the Council 9 months to provide information to the external auditor in relation to an objection to the accounts and that the objection has still not been resolved.
  • I note that the external audit will bring in specialist support to review Use of Resources. Can you provide details of the particular areas they will be examining?

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